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April 10th, 2012
04:33 PM ET

With Santorum suspending campaign, some religious conservatives wonder how to proceed

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - Evangelical activist Michael Farris was not exactly surprised that Rick Santorum suspended his campaign on Tuesday. But that doesn’t mean that Farris, a longtime political organizer, knows what he’s supposed to do now.

“Right now my choice is to sit on my hands and do nothing or to actively try to find some alternative” to Mitt Romney, Farris said in an interview shortly after Santorum's announcement.

“Some of us just have a hard time supporting a person who said he was going to be more liberal on gay rights than Ted Kennedy,” said Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, referring to remarks Romney made in a 1994 letter.

Farris’ reaction is a stark emblem of the disappointment among religious conservatives over Santorum's announcement, and a reminder that Romney’s enthusiasm deficit among the conservative evangelicals who form the GOP’s base hasn’t gone away.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

“There are two kinds of disappointment today,” said John Green, a religion and politics expert at the University of Akron. “One is felt by people who care a great deal about social issues, especially white evangelicals, who are uncomfortable with Mitt Romney.”

“And there’s another group who really liked Santorum,” Green continued, “and were quite excited about him not only because of the social issues but because they saw him as representing this positive role for faith and values in a society.”

The conservative and largely evangelical Family Research Council said in an email to supporters Tuesday night that Santorum's announcement "was clearly disappointing news for those looking for a nominee who understands and articulates the connection between the social and fiscal challenges facing America."

"His historical run for President achieved remarkable success because his campaign was based not on money spent, but on the pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-freedom message he carried," the Family Research Council email blast said.

Religious conservatives were the key to Santorum’s unlikely rise as a serious presidential candidate. Conservative evangelicals and Catholics were drawn to Santorum as much for his personal story – he is a conservative Catholic and homeschooling dad of seven – as for his outspoken advocacy against abortion rights and same-sex marriage as a U.S. senator.

While polls showed him at the back of a seven-person pack just weeks before January’s first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, Santorum won a plurality of Iowa evangelicals, who accounted for nearly 60% of the electorate. That support laid the foundation for a first place Iowa finish.

After Santorum’s primary loss in New Hampshire to Mitt Romney - and days before Santorum would lose to Newt Gingrich in South Carolina - conservative religious activists convened in Texas and congealed behind the former Pennsylvania senator.

With strong evangelical support, Santorum went on to win primaries and caucuses in 11 states, even as Romney racked up more than twice as many delegates.

Not all conservative religious activists are as dead-set against Romney as Farris, who is also chancellor at Patrick Henry College, a school for homeschooled youth.

“Barack Obama will unite conservatives and people of faith more so than any single Republican candidate can hope to do,” said Mat Staver, an evangelical Christian who leads the conservative legal group Liberty Counsel.

But Staver said Romney would have to work hard to excite social conservatives.

“He’s going to have to make some intentional steps to reach out to evangelicals and religious conservatives,” said Staver. “It would be a mistake to assume he has every vote from evangelicals and religious conservatives locked up.”

At the moment, plenty of other conservative activists say they’re still in wait-and-see mode about the primary season.

“It’s very likely that he’ll end up the nominee, but he’s not he nominee yet,” said Steve Scheffler, president or the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, about Romney. “He was never my first choice, but I’ll support him because the alternative is something we can’t live with.

“But I’m not ready to throw my support to him yet,” Scheffler said.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Politics • Rick Santorum

soundoff (1,591 Responses)
  1. Dan

    Kind of a silly question posed by CNN. Where do religious conservatives turn? Certainly NOT to Obama.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • J.W

      That doesn't answer the question.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • Tex71

      Religious conservatives only have two ways to turn: to reason, or to violence. Most often, they choose the latter option. As a recovering fundamentalist, I take a moment of sober reflection every time religious conservatism comes up that "there, but for the grace of God, go I".

      April 10, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  2. Mark

    Back to their caves!

    April 10, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  3. Cheeseburger

    Certainly not to Obama!

    April 10, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Ben

      Obama is one of the most religious presidents we've ever had. It's too bad he's not white, huh?

      April 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  4. Jean Sartre

    IF I were a Religious Conservative, I would commit suicide, so I could be in the arms of my lord and savior...

    April 10, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Cheeseburger

      Really didn't pay attention in church, did ya? If you've ever been. "Contemp prior to investigation.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • John

      Hahahaha, love it.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Dan

      We certainly will not sit idle and let pompous little punks like you be in charge of anything.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • ryox82

      Now now Dan, that isn't very Christian like of you.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • NPRJim

      Dan-I don't know how you can help it, you are too busy worshiping a made up spirit in the sky and trying to force everyone to believe in the stupidity just like you to actually do anything else. Why do you thing Santorum's evil @$$ had to get out of the race, he was too busy trying to tell everyone how to live to actually campaign on any real issues.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  5. J.W

    He had one daughter that was kind of cute.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  6. Bill55

    Just what are white evangelical Xians going to do? A suggestion: stay home on elelction day. Perish the thought you would compromise and vote for a black man.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Tex71

      It's not so much that he's black; it's really more....uhhhhh....well......
      okay, okay, it's because he's black.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  7. open400

    I am sick and tired of people saying there is a war on women and a war on religion. No one has overturned Row vs. Wade and none of those crazy ultrsound laws passed. A war on religionis what the Nazis did to the Jews.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Cheeseburger

      It's because we are living in a "culture of victimization." Just wait five minutes. Every bad habit will become a "disease."

      April 10, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • todd in DC

      Check out Virginia, bub. Try to keep up

      April 10, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Martin

      No, that was annihilation of a people. Just like the Christians tried to do many times in their history. Though, yes, the Nazis were more systematic and effective at it.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
  8. Joe from Ohio

    How to proceed?? STAY HOME. You people are the ones responsible for bringing us Bush. How'd that work out for ya??

    April 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  9. Matthew

    They can go back to praying in private, like I told them to in the bible.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  10. shawn l

    I find it funny that christians wont vote for a mormon.

    My imaginary made up god figure is better than your imaginary god figure!

    April 10, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      The cross burners would rather vote for a Catholic than a freemason influenced Mormon. This is a century old battle and at the end of the day they will either vote for Romney, or stay home.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  11. Jeff

    Santorum was a good man, but Romney just appeals to a larger audience, and we need to get Obama out before he destroys this country (and/or my pocketbook).

    April 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • wAKE UP

      How EXACTLY is Obama destroying your pocketbook? Oh right, he raised the cost of gasoline just before his own re-election. He'll probably adjust it back down next October. Until then his Gas Price O Meter stays on high.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Jeff

      Wakeup – raising taxes. Democrats want a larger government in general, and that larger government gets hungry and always wants more funding. Republicans recognize that government is the most inefficient corporation in the world and that people should take care of themselves and not be lazy. So....we want smaller government, which allows Americans to keep more of their money. Such a simple concept that liberals just can't process.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • J.W

      Why is it that when we had the Bush administration tax cut the economy plummeted?

      April 10, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • sam

      Jeff – you've been listening to that one grouchy elderly uncle you have who says he's a conservative but really just has deeply outdated views. Stop listening to him and the other knee jerk idiots on Fox and try and get some facts rather than repeating rhetoric you don't even understand.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • just sayin

      Jeff

      Santorum was a good man....
      >
      Now that is funny...he was a delusional lunatic,

      April 10, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Dan

      Jeff
      Great post. Exactly true.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Alpa Chino

      Dan, you crazy.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Kool Aid

      Ah, I see some of my best customers here. I come in so many refreshing flavors! Keep drinking.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • J.W

      So how do you explain that the economy was at a low point at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009? Those were the periods of the worst job losses and the big drops in GDP growth. After that GDP grew every quarter and jobs were added almost every month.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • JoJo

      I've got nothing against conservatism. It's these theocratic, militaristic, hypocritical plutocrats that call themselves conservative Republican Presidential candidates that I don't like. (I'll make an exception for Ron Paul).

      April 10, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • alex

      idk why its bad to say but, "THE RICH SHOULD PAY MORE IN TAXES" percentage wise. They have benefited from the system now its time to make an investment in it. Obama would never raise taxes on the middle class NEVER...

      April 10, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • NPRJim

      Jeff-You are so full of it, the Concervative right wants larger government and for that government to take more control of our lives, using every excuse they can to try to make the government be in control of every aspect. The Department of Homeland Security, the TSA and the Patriot Act all represetn huge government growth under a Republican Adminstartion. Add to that the fact that the Repbulican Conservatives all want to continue to go to war so that they can usher in the end of times, Revolations style and you have the group of people most responsible for desiring to and growing government. Why don't you wake up and think for yourself instead of spouting the teabag BS?

      April 11, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  12. wAKE UP

    Boo Hoo. Nobody;s running on the religeous wacko line. How can I support someone who says he is "more liberal on gay rights than Ted Kennedy" Boo hoo hoo.
    Sorry Christian nut jobs. Now you have to vote for the only Christian in the race Waaaaa. Waaaaa.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • Dan

      Your screen name should really be Growup.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Kool Aid

      Dan....Daaaaaaaan...drink moooooore of meeeeeee.....

      April 10, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • Chance

      Most Christian arent worried about passing judgment; they know God doesn't need help in that department. further more its Gods judgment that matters not anyone else's on that subject. You make it seem likes its wrong for a man and women to be together.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Martin

      The only Christian being Obama?

      April 10, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  13. just sayin

    They can go back to beating their wives and kids in the name of God.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Chance

      very mature. why do you think Christians are supposed to be perfect? Christians are the same as any other person in the fact we all have flaws. if Christians were perfect what would have been the point of Jesus? being saved doesn't mean some magic wand is waved and all your previous ways of thinking are vanished. being Christian is a lifetime pursuit of being a reflection of Jesus to the world.

      I understand your point of view, look at religion and all the faults it has and bad things that have come from it. The sad thing is that when we stand before God that excuse wont matter. Just because people mess up God's word doesn't make you right or make me wrong. Trust me I get you but just because so many Christians don't live up to your standards it doesn't make you right. its not about religion its about a relationship with God.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  14. What puzzles Pipe-Dreamer

    Just goes without saying that you can keep politics outta religion but you cannot keep religion outta politics!

    April 10, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  15. RTT

    I hope they all proceed to leave the rest of us alone. That's what they should proceed to do next. I can't stand religious fanatics (conservatives, as they choose to be called.)

    April 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Chance

      Where do you hang out at the Christianity is all in your face? I get out a lot, i watch sports and different programing on TV and never have i felt Christianity forced on me. I see a lot of things going on in the world that i dont agree with it doesnt mean i have to take part in it or hate someone because they do things different then me. As long as you dont come in my home and try and impose your ways on me what is their to complain about. its a free country...

      April 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • NPRJim

      Chance-You should try reading and watching the news sometime. If you do you would see that nutjobs like Santrorum are all about abridging our freedoms in the name of their idiotic religion. It's all over the place and all the time. If you don't see it you are blind.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  16. squid

    They go to Hell!

    April 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Da Bears!

      Ah come on! That's what I was going to say. Darn it.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  17. pastmorm

    Please watch this, no mormon can deny that it's what they believe.

    http://youtu.be/3HSlbuli7HM

    April 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Keith

      Yes. Mormons can deny they believe this. It is a crazy distortion of their doctrine. Why don't you let Mormons tell you what they believe rather than post a cartoon.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • CalGTR

      This filthy, ridiculous, offensive, blasphemous video does not represent the beliefs of the LDS church. This is a video produced by those desiring to show the LDS church in the worse possible light, and they are not being truthful about LDS teachings. Anybody wanting to know anything at all about what the LDS church actually teaches can go straight to the source at LDS.org, which is the same web site used by church members. That web site has all the scripture, lesson manuals, conference talks, magazine issues, leadership manuals, and so forth and so on, used by church members worldwide. I teach adult sunday school in my ward (congregation), and I pull my lesson plans from that site every week. I mention this so that you'll understand that the site I referenced is not set up merely to put a public spin on LDS beliefs.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Alpa Chino

      CalGTR – how do magnets work, again?

      April 10, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Larry L

      Christians believe in the virgin birth, Noah's Ark, the earth created less than 6000 years ago, pillars of salt, Adam and Eve, burning bushes, parting the sea, angels, devils, the rapture, and most recently, that Jesus will alter the outcome of sports events if you point at the sky. Leave the Mormons alone with their mythology. It's not really any more ridiculous than your own.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Keeping it honest

      There are so many lies in that video, it would be difficult to even begin to know even where to start.

      Mormons believe Jesus Christ was the Savior of the World, no one else. To distort that as the video has is clearly not reflective of the LDS church. They also teach one must follow his teachings to return to him.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • just sayin

      Larry L

      Leave the Mormons alone with their mythology. It's not really any more ridiculous than your own.
      >
      Actually thiers is even more crazy.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Nicole

      I'm a lifelong mormon, and I have to say this video is simply NOT true. There are bits of truth here that are completely distorted, and many blatant lies. How sad that people spend time producing movies like these that are completely inaccurate and attempt to misinform people. Never ONCE have I heard a talk or sermon in a mormon meeting that belittled other faiths and religions. We teach tolerance and love for all people. And we're too busy trying to serve others, and live as Jesus Christ taught to produce laughable movies like these. If you want to know the TRUTH about our beliefs, go to http://mormon.org. 🙂

      April 10, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Chance

      @ just sayn & @ LL

      Not every Christian believes the world to be 6600 yrs old. but the main point i wanted to make is some people find it absurd to think that by chance the universe was started by a big bang on its own. that by chance the simplest single cells formed the animal kingdom and mankind. that by chance mankinds DNA split form the primitive ape to the approval of natural selection that by Chance Man rules earth. that by chance this speck in the universe Earth is able to sustain life. that by chance the Middle East is as relevant today as it was in the days of the Bible because by Chance it sits on a wealth of black gold. In effect placing region and secularism on the worlds stage daily because we have to deal with that volatile part of the world. By chance this all point to religion being the problem and people start calling to do away with it. Which is what the Bible says will happen. people will unite under the belief that God is the problem (which in actuality religion is the problem) under one ruler one currency. Go on and put all you hope in Chance. its OK i can see your point.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • rich

      Slick video, but it misrepresents numerous aspects of the LDS faith in ways that is obviously intended to mock mormons, not to objectively explain their theology. You could create an equivalent video to mock any other faith if you wanted to be mean.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Martin

      My sister is an Episcopalian living in mostly Mormon part of Idaho. She and her boss drove two hours to a meeting and the whole way he tried to convert her. And YES he did mention a bunch of the stuff that's in this video (EVERYONE should watch it and decide if they want a president who belongs to a cult). He told her that if she didn't convert they would go to different heavens. He could visit her in hers but she couldn't visit him in his...

      April 10, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  18. MadMoh

    Now they can go back under their rocks.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  19. What puzzles Pipe-Dreamer

    I'll take sloppy seconds! 🙁

    April 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  20. First!

    First!

    April 10, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
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About this blog

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.