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February 8th, 2012
03:08 PM ET

10 reasons religious conservatives love Rick Santorum

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - For all the attention paid to the clout of fiscally focused tea party conservatives and of the primacy of jobs in the 2012 election, Rick Santorum’s trifecta victories Tuesday night are a good reminder of the powerful role religious conservatives play in the GOP. They fueled Santorum’s wins in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado - and his earlier victory in the Iowa caucuses.

But why, exactly, do religious conservatives love the former senator from Pennsylvania? There are obvious reasons - his advocacy against abortion and same-sex marriage, for instance - but plenty of less obvious ones, too.

Here’s my list. What would you add?

  1. Santorum’s a family man. “He’s got this big, vibrant family and he left the campaign trail last week to go back and be with his daughter in the hospital,” says Eli Bremer, chairman of Colorado's El Paso County Republican Party, centered around evangelical-heavy Colorado Springs. Santorum recently returned to Pennsylvania to respond to a health scare involving daughter Isabella - the youngest of his seven children - who suffers from a genetic disease. “I spent time with him last year, and he’s constantly thinking about his family,” Bremer says of Santorum. “It’s not just a political stunt.”

  1. He’s not averse to getting politically incorrect when donning culture warrior chain mail. “So if the baby’s toe is in you can’t kill the baby - how about if the baby’s foot is in?” he famously asked U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, in a 1999 debate over a rare, later term abortion procedure that anti-abortion groups call a "partial birth" abortion.

  1. Santorum’s a homeschooling dad. His wife, Karen, is homeschooling or has homeschooled their seven children, making them a poster family for a movement populated largely by evangelical Christians and other serious believers. “It matters because it shows he’s a real part of our movement rather than simply someone who is politically sympathetic,” says Michael Farris, an evangelical conservative who leads the Home School Legal Defense Association.

  1. He’s a devout cradle Catholic. As a kid in Pennsylvania, Santorum the altar boy would spend Sunday mornings pushing hospital patients in wheelchairs to Mass. As a U.S. senator, Santorum attended Mass at St. Joseph’s on Capitol Hill each day before work. That piety gets respect with religious voters, regardless of affiliation. “Evangelicals have made him an honorary evangelical,” said Richard Land, public policy chief for the Southern Baptist Convention.

  1. Santorum’s not Mitt Romney. Millions of socially conservative voters still distrust the former Massachusetts governor on the hot button issues - abortion and same-sex marriage. Some, though not all, are put off by Romney’s Mormonism.

  1. Santorum’s not Newt Gingrich. Many social conservatives, particularly those of the female persuasion, continue to be turned off by Gingrich’s two failed marriages and his admissions of past marital infidelity.

  1. Santorum doesn’t just talk about opposing abortion, he’s legislated on it. As a senator, he was an architect of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. He pushed the ban even in the1990s, when Bill Clinton was in the White House and the legislation stood nary a chance of a presidential signature. “He walked the walk,” Land says. “When no one else would carry our water in the Senate, he would.”

  1. Ditto on same-sex marriage. Santorum sponsored a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage at a time when many Republicans lawmakers didn’t want to touch such a hot potato.

  1. Santorum’s big on compassionate conservatism. Though he gets the most ink for controversial stances on issues such as homosexuality, Santorum has also been a leading advocate for funding to fight AIDS in the Third World and has led conservative responses to poverty. “A lot of people have a hard time getting Rick Santorum because they’re used to a debate between liberalism and complete free-market approach and he’s not either of those things,” says Michael Gerson, a Washington Post columnist and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush.

    1. Santorum isn’t afraid to challenge science, questioning the theory of evolution and dismissing global warming as “a hoax.” The former senator “confirms (social conservatives’) view of science as being at odds with a Christian worldview,” tweets Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor at Grove City College, an evangelical Christian school in Pennsylvania.

CNN Belief Blog co-editor Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Politics • Rick Santorum

soundoff (2,587 Responses)
  1. pmmarion

    “Faith strikes me as intellectual laziness.”― Robert A. Heinlein

    History does not record anywhere at any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help. But, like dandruff, most people do have a religion and spend time and money on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure from fiddling with it. [Robert Heinlein, Notebooks of Lazarus Long]

    February 9, 2012 at 7:53 am |
  2. I. Dontthinkso

    R Santorum harks back to a day when his beliefs were the only reasonable explanation of the world as many saw it. His explanations and accounts are simple, straight forward and easy to verbalize. Only problem is that for the most part they're wrong. Not wrong headed just ... wrong.

    February 9, 2012 at 7:52 am |
  3. t.sarcastic

    One giant step for Theocracy.

    February 9, 2012 at 7:44 am |
  4. duh anal without lube hurts

    ^^

    February 9, 2012 at 7:39 am |
  5. mark

    Watch this guy will reck your family With his religion

    February 9, 2012 at 7:20 am |
  6. Jesus was a space alien

    Santorum has all of the religious fruit loops behind him. Having abortion and gay marriage as the focus of your campaign just shows how out of touch he and his followers are. The government has many other more important priorities to worry about such as the econmony, energy policy, jobs, infrastructure, defense, and many others. All of this social conservative non-sense is like at the bottom of priorities and not something the government should be involved in anyway.

    February 9, 2012 at 7:03 am |
    • Victor

      You got THAT right!

      February 9, 2012 at 7:18 am |
  7. Stuck in the Middle

    So Santorum is their favorite because he's just as much of a bigot as they are. It never ceases to amaze me how many fundy's believe that religiouus freedom means they should have the freedom to ram their beliefs down our throats. Note to the Christian Taliban, the only difference between you and Islamic Extremists is you don't speak Farsi. You accept the lie of a bronze age myth that's still used by the powerful to control the weak minded ahead of common sense and rational thought. That doesn't make you righteous, it makes you ignorant and dangerous.

    February 9, 2012 at 6:59 am |
  8. Sam

    The Faithful? Faithful to what? Faithful to being self-righteous, judgmental and hypocritical. Faithful to assuming that everyone should follow your beliefs. Faithful to a set of morals that are superficial at best. Faithful to not truly understanding love and compassion. You can keep your Faith, and I'll keep my soul! Thanks!

    February 9, 2012 at 6:55 am |
  9. CT

    I resent your headline. Not all the "Faithful" in this country are republican. In fact if you want to follow Christ's example, then you are looking for someone who cares for the poor, doesn't think corporations have souls and believes in loving your neighbor. I don't see anyone in the republican party who fits that bill!

    February 9, 2012 at 6:38 am |
    • 40acres

      CT, there are plenty (probably a vast majority) of Republicans that fit your criteria. They are not generally the ones with the megaphone nor do they wear their religion on their sleeves. They, instead, spend their time following their religious beliefs instead of their party pundits. They don't make good press though so you probably won't see them unless you look for them.

      February 9, 2012 at 7:23 am |
  10. martog

    Ten Reasons You Know you are an Atheist.
    1. You were likely brought up a theist (probably a Christian if you live in the USA) and had to do your own thinking to rise above the beliefs that still occupy the mind of the believer. This usually involved being smart and working hard at school and college so as to get a good, accurate view of the natural Universe and overcoming significant social pressure to dumb yourself down and conform. In short, you had the guts to ask the hard questions and the brains to spot the weak answers. The more you came to understand the Universe, the less reason there was to believe in a god and the more you came to appreciate human nature, the more you understood why billions of us still do.
    2. While rejecting the supernatural elements of the Bible, you nevertheless retain a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent you reject Christian morality, it is where it is mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, your basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – you just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over your head in order to act in a manner that you consider moral.
    3. You know a great deal more about the Bible than most believers. This is because you took the time to read it yourself and did not rely on the primary-color simple stories you learned in Sunday school. You have also probably done some research into the historical Jesus and have a good handle on where he REALLY fit in to the broader picture of the Middle East at the time. Needless to say, his miracles and other magic powers soon started to look pretty unlikely.
    4. Your knowledge of basic science and history is much stronger than that of your average believer. You likely have a basic working knowledge of physics, astronomy, evolutionary biology and cosmology and a good idea of the history of life on this planet. This acc.umulated knowledge puts you in a position to judge the claims of the Bible in a critical light and they are almost always found wanting. To the theist, this makes you “elitist” and ‘arrogant”.
    5. You relish your role as a religious minority in the USA, as this gives you an impetus to fight and you understand how others with unpopular, but doubtlessly correct views have felt throughout history. There is something altogether satisfying to you about having a deep conviction you are right and being viewed with disdain for your views by the errant majority. You feel a quiet confidence that future generations will look back on you as a member of a class of trailblazers, as religious supersti.tions go into inevitable decline in popularity.
    6. You are likely more environmentally aware than your theist friends and colleagues and unlikely to fall for claims of industry and wind-bag politicians concerning the impact of man’s activities on the environment. You could no more act in an environmentally irresponsible manner because “god will keep us safe” than you could jump of a ship, believing King Neptune will keep you safe.
    7. You generally have a live and let live atti.tude, but will fiercely defend any attempts by theists to thrust their views on you or your children, directly or through control of school boards, the legislature or the executive. While you are prepared to debate and argue passionately with the theist on an intellectual level, you would never wish them harm or ill will. You know you are likely to be smugly told you will “burn in hell for all eternity” for your healthy skepticism. This highlights what you despise about religion, as you would not wish a bad sunburn on another, simply because they have a different religious view to you. You have never heard of an evolutionary biologist strapping a bomb to himself and running into a church yelling “Darwin-u akbar”.
    8. You likely know more about other religions than your average theist. This makes you less fearful of them and enables you to see parallels. You realize that, if you were born in India, you would have been brought up with a totally different religion. You realize that every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. They cannot all exist and you see the error all faiths make of thinking only theirs exist(s). This “rising above” the regional nature of all religions was probably instrumental in your achieving atheism.
    9. You likely have a deep, genuine appreciation of the fathomless beauty and unbelievable complexity of our Universe, from the 4 nucleotides that orchestrate every aspect of you, through to the distant quasars, without having to think it was all made for you. You likely get more out of being the irrelevant ant staring up at the cosmos than you do in having to pretend that it was all made to turn in majestic black-and-white pirouette about you.
    10. While you have a survival instinct, you cannot fear death in the way the theist does. You know that the whole final judgment story, where you may be sent to hell if you fail, is Dark Ages nonsense meant to keep the Church’s authority. You also know that you were dead for 13,700,000,000 years before you were born. It is impossible for you to fear death, for the simple reason that you know the capacity to fear (or to feel pain or discomfort) itself dies. You will not even know you are dead. Fear of death is as meaningless to you as is the fear of a vacuum, the fear of not being born. You feel a lot more secure, and indeed a deep comfort, in this knowledge, than you would in trying to yoke yourself to some quasi-hope that every part of your intellect tells you is untenable.

    February 9, 2012 at 6:37 am |
    • Joe

      11. You recoil and feel hatred when the name of Jesus is mentioned. You don't why, it just happens like a natural, wordly reaction. Other names don't seem to spark the same intensity.

      February 9, 2012 at 6:59 am |
    • Stuck in the Middle

      Sorry joe, nice strawman but we don't feel any hatred toward the myth of Jesus or Christians. Most of my family and nearly all of my friends are Christians. We passionately defent the right of religious liberty, for me and for you. Yes you Joe, I defend your right to believe in a silly myth if it helps you sleep nights.

      February 9, 2012 at 7:04 am |
    • Stuck in the Middle

      Well said Martog, well said...

      February 9, 2012 at 7:05 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I don't feel any 'hatred' for Jesus and the mention of his name does not make me "recoil". Fundamentalist nuts, on the other hand, are revolting in their sanctimony and hypocrisy.

      February 9, 2012 at 7:07 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Why is it that every christard or at least most of them think we have a hatred for jesus when they have heard it said a trillion times that we don't believe in it? Does the thought that not everyone is as blind as they are scare them that much?

      February 9, 2012 at 7:24 am |
    • 40acres

      Joe, you might want to pay a little closer attention. The recoiling you sometimes see is not from the name or idea of Jesus but it IS from the hypocrisy that so often accompanies it.

      February 9, 2012 at 7:30 am |
    • mcp123

      "To the extent you reject Christian morality"

      Christian "morality" is a myth. In reality being nice to one another is born of the need to congregate to achieve goals like say feeding a community. If your are not nice to others you will generally be shunned so you would either have to be independent and provide your own needs.

      Christians engage in the same types of "evils" as atheists or agnostics... whether it is adultery...theft...murder et cetera. There are no studies that prove that atheists/agnostics are somehow less moral.

      February 9, 2012 at 7:31 am |
    • indyreader

      Joe, do you *hate* Superman? As an atheist, I no more *hate* Jesus than I *hate* any other figure – semi-historical, fictional, or whatever. Like many atheists, I'm simply exasperated at the single mindedness displayed by many of his followers that amounts to belief that everything begins and ends with their own particular brand of his philosophy, and that it is original and obtainable by no other method than blind faith.
      An example: The golden rule is a very nice bit of philosophy. It did not originate with Jesus. The same basic idea – stated positively as "treat others the way you want to be treated" or negatively as "don't treat others in ways you would not want to be treated" has recorded appearances in Confucianism (over 500 years before Jesus), Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Bahai, Jainism, Humanism, Islam, Platonism, Sikhism, Quakerism,... the list goes on. There's a pretty nice write-up on wikipedia. But you generally don't get any of the historical perspective – or the dispassionate ability to hold the idea at arms length and study all the angles – from present-day Christians who are so laser-focused intent on pushing their own rules into civil law.

      February 9, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  11. tcaros

    It's a sad thing when people are left with a vote for Santorum or no vote at all. That's why the GOP turnout to vote is so low.
    Reality says Evangelicals will not vote for a Mormon. Momonism is a cult and most true Christians know this. That's why they can't stomach to vote for Romney. As a result you are left with Newt a liar and unethical person, Ron Paul a whack job who talks about legaliizing heroin, or Santorum who is a proseletyzing obnoxious preek.

    February 9, 2012 at 6:23 am |
    • dave

      Sorry tcaros, Mormonism isn't a cult. You can disagree with its theology (although I doubt you are familiar with its theology), but that doesn't make it a cult. I could just as easily say your religion, if any, is a cult, right?

      February 9, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • newsflash

      all religions are cults. they only differ in the dogma they promote

      February 9, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  12. Jim

    Don't forget # 11
    Has no clue about reality.

    February 9, 2012 at 6:19 am |
    • 40acres

      Jim, religious reality is subjective. Some religions believe that a newborn who dies before baptism cannot enter heaven because their "sins" have not been washed away, others believe you can't enter heaven if you have not been born again, still others believe if you are not of their religion you cannot enter heaven.......it sounds like a very exclusive club. Does your reality explain any of that?

      February 9, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • douglas

      yeah, reality. A "spirit" impregnated a virgin who had a human child. Can anything possibly be more farfetched than that?

      February 9, 2012 at 8:02 am |
  13. NauticalMan

    I am sure that the Democratic Party and President Obams would love to see the GOP nominate Sanctimonious Santorum. The country sure could use a religious fanatic. He would mesh perfectly with the Know Nothing, Anti-Science nuts in control of the Party now!

    February 9, 2012 at 6:18 am |
  14. Chris

    It is sad that people are not well read enough, or don't possess just reasonable thinking skills when they choose to support a republican. It's like they have no memory of all the horrible things republicans have done over the last 15 years!

    And then I see the same people are watching Fox news and spewing the same crap like any of Faux news is based in reality.
    People, Fox news is 100% whatever Roer Ailes says it is. He literally meets with the anchors every morning to give them there talking points for the day. It is purely a propaganda channel. That means it is poison for your brain!

    February 9, 2012 at 6:16 am |
  15. SNAPPA

    Because they are as sick as he is. This man took his dead baby home from the hospital so his other kids could meet him. If that isn't sick enough then you have to ask why? I thought these cult people actully believe that the "soul" leaves the physical body once you're dead? If that is so then what was the point? Traumatize a bunch of kids? They are what's wrong with American and I can only hope they are a dying breed.

    February 9, 2012 at 6:09 am |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things,

    February 9, 2012 at 6:01 am |
    • SNAPPA

      Reallly like cults are good? You're as delusional as your beliefs. Your post makes as much sense as your cult.

      February 9, 2012 at 6:11 am |
    • mcp123

      Yes for the worse...

      February 9, 2012 at 7:33 am |
    • douglas

      No, it does not, and there's not a shred of scientific proof.

      February 9, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • Nope

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs."""~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      February 9, 2012 at 8:11 am |
  17. cruiser

    This guy is full of deception and half truths. If he ends up being President, he will set civil rights back half a century.

    February 9, 2012 at 5:25 am |
  18. Bobby

    Look into Santorum's eyes: they're sad, with a hint of anger/hate.

    The opposite of Jesus. Yet he attracts the religious. There's a disconnect going on here...

    February 9, 2012 at 4:56 am |
  19. adam

    Santorum is too scary. He sounds like religious fanatic. He might win the evangelical core vote, but won't win the election.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:42 am |
  20. canttakajoke

    And it's not fair to fire Roland Martin and leave Anderson Cooper in there

    February 9, 2012 at 3:28 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.