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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. zip

    Is a reporter ever going to have the courage to ask Romney about the White Horse Prophecy? Google it. You won't believe it.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  2. The King

    Evangelical "Christians" are oblivious to the teaching of Jesus Christ. They act like more like a cult that worships Mammon than anything. Where are they going? I have a feeling they're going to be shocked when they find their station in the afterlife less than their expectations.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Wallabee Bob

      I belong to the cult that worships Mammaries. That's what you are talking about, right?

      April 10, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • mikstov33

      Good point..they do seem to be a little misled by the cadre of preachers on television whose only message seems to be how to claim a blessing from god by sending a load of money to said preachers......
      I thought Jesus tossed the money changers OUT of the temple(one of the first things he did when he came to Jerusalem.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  3. Steve G

    I would LOVE to hear haters from either side propose a SOLUTION rather than just bashing everyone. If you are not part of the solution then YOU are part of the problem!!!

    April 10, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  4. wrong side of the bed

    DOOR HIT YOU>>>WAY OUT...

    April 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  5. Spiney

    I'm confused. I thought God wanted Santorum to be the next president. Did God change his mind again like he did back in the old days when he told everyone that the world was flat, that slavery was okay, that women and blacks shouldn't vote, that gay people shouldn't marry?

    April 10, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • Wallabee Bob

      Actually, God – Flying Spaghetti Monster – wanted Christine O'Donnell, because he prefers his presidents witchy, MILFy and shit-stupid, but FSM went on a ripping bender and missed the whole primary season due to his stay in rehab.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • JT

      Actually, he wanted Rick Perry to run then he changed his mind and let another 1000 children die in the dirt as he let Tebow score another TD.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  6. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 10, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • Yeah. That's it

      Look at the picture. Santorum and sychophants praying for Santorum's victory.

      Did prayer work?

      Maybe Obama is a better prayer.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Aezel

      "Lighthouses are more useful than churches."- Ben Franklin

      April 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  7. BK

    "Praying" to have your person elected is a waste of energy-votes come from people on the planet, not from a spirt in the sky

    April 10, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
  8. Patricksday

    How can a "Christian" vote for a Republican based simply on a woman right to make health decisions on HER own, or because some how denying Gay Marriage is going to make Gay people disappear? The Party of GREED, HATE, SELFISHNESS and service only to the Wealthy are not "Christian Acts", you cant do the things they do to Humanity and say they are followers of Jesus Christ, Satan Maybe.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • claude slagenhop

      Actually there is a wing of the party that is not for hate. It is called the Ron Paul wing. This is where we let you do what you want in your bedroom AND keep your money that you earned. Christians should vote for Ron Paul because he will let them worship the way they want and maintain their civil liberties. Christians should recognize that they are better off in a society that will allow them to voluntarily spread their beliefs, rather than one that mandates certain religious beliefs.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  9. Emperor Vadik, CA

    I have an idea for religious conservatives and where they can go...

    ...find a tallest bridge and jump off of it...

    April 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • elbarto5

      I wonder if you would tell a Muslim the same thing, Probably not.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
  10. Andre Mutabeli

    I am a black man and I can assure you that Obama will be defeated by lideslide.

    Mitt Romney will beat Change of divide and conquer comes November. You liberals should wathch and learn. Obama was an accidental president--just by default. He has done nothing good than to divide people and pity one another.

    Andre

    April 10, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • BK

      Note to @Andew check the voting record of the Republician contolled Congress and the RNC agenda, then reconsider your "divide" comment.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • John

      And I am an old white guy who tells you plainly that you are an idiot.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Andre's Spelling Coach

      Maybe if you spent more time at school than at church you would have learned how to spell.

      Your lack of an education fits you right in with the GOP's agenda.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  11. Dan

    Yeah. Jump off a cliff and die. We don't' have room for people that believe in Jesus / Santa / the Easter Bunny.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • Carolyn

      I can tell you know all the answers...How naive.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • elbarto5

      Now be sure to tell the Jews and Muslims the same thing.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  12. kevin

    What I see in the image above is pure green. You can make millions off just that group with the right marketing plan.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  13. Agnostic

    Back to their Double-Wides and PBR can collection?

    April 10, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  14. Gibby

    Thank (insert deity of choice here) this lunatic puritan bowed out. He would have brought this country straight back to the 1600's!

    April 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  15. ScoRho

    The only real problem with this article is that both the headline and the article (and especially the shorter headline on the home page) assume that religious=evangelical Christian, as if anybody who does not fit that narrow category can't possibly be considered religious.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  16. greg goetsch

    ironically, i think the president is, in his heart and away from the political microphones, more what conservative christians want. Romney is actually more liberal at heart, but is more willing to say and do anything to get elected. I think the president actually has much more concern for the unborn than Romney. And the president actually, in his heart believes in Christ's wish, "love thy neighbor as thy self, THIS is the GREATEST commandment" Who knows what Romney really cares about. His record show's flip flops everywhere.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • Unbeliever

      I agree that Romney is more liberal than he espouses, but I can't agree that he is more liberal than Obama. I would never get into the game of trying to read what goes on in their heads.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  17. Keith

    great. A muslim or a cult leader? What a wonderful choice. We're screwed.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • Unbeliever

      The LDS church is no more or less a cult than the Baptist church is. It's rather arrogant to think that your myth is more accurate than theirs is. Just because the people who wrote yours lived further back in time makes it no more accurate. Yours was written by "witnesses" who never actually saw it, but were relaying the info from the actual "witnesses." You most popular witness, Paul, NEVER even met Jesus. So what if they got their myths from a guy who said he saw them in a field and read the translations with magic rocks in a hat? As long as people don't try to force their religion on everyone through legislation we'll be fine. He can go to his church on Sundays and you can go to yours.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • wrong side of the bed

      Hey Keith ,who's the Muslim and ,what of it?

      April 10, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      While I do agree with everything Unbeliever said, I can't resist saying to Keith: "An atheist must be looking pretty good given those (not completely true) choices"

      April 10, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Keith

      Is there a" none of the above option"? Perhaps choice "c"? I can't even hold my nose and vote for either one these guys.
      The bottom line is that this nation is already under God's judgement and the choice of these two turds is just futher evidence of this.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  18. Amadea

    How amazing that you wanna-be intellectuals will denigrate anything that smacks of religion yet are so ready to support a president that is spending America the Beautiful into the ground and selling off her good will around the world. One of you called pray-ers "wishful thinkers". HA! Take a look in the mirror.

    April 10, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      George Bush, more than anyone else, put the USA on the track it is on financially and destroyed th USA's image abroad. Obama has not been great, but he is stellar compared to the Texas Chimp!

      April 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • Yeah. That's it

      You mean, like W? He and Reagan were responsible for the largest increases in the deficit since WWII. Get that? Did you vote for W? Then you voted for a massive spender too.

      Hypocrisy much?

      April 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • captain america

      hotair is a fraud it is not even an American and its political opinion is worth less than dog crap to US. Butt out you butt in pos. There's your sign

      April 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Aezel

      "Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man"- Thomas Jefferson

      April 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  19. Come to the Dark Side! We Have Cookies!

    The important lesson is that the moderate Republican got the primary. The extreme parts like the Religious Right and the Tea Party had far less traction than anyone imagined.

    The screamers and kooks on the Right failed. The moderates triumphed. It's like seeing the first rays of dawn after a long cold night of divisive conservative tactics. Admittedly, it wouldn't be much of a day with Romney, but a trend towards sanity, compromise and cooperation would be nice.

    Of course, Romney could easily blow it and feel he has to kiss hard-core conservative ass and name an extremist as a running mate.

    April 10, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  20. woody

    I dont believe in fear based religions or its "followers".

    April 10, 2012 at 7:55 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.