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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. Andre Mutabeli

    You sound like a liberal guy on the far left of the issues. If I may ask you...What is your belief? If you do, i invite you to debate me on any issues. Also, I would like to know your academic credential...How far did you go in academic? Are you smarter than me? I take your comment as offensive and insulting and i challenge you to a tedhinical and challenging discussion. I am waiting for you reply.

    I am smart GOP than you think. Yes, I am a Catholic and a conservative. It's an error people make you moron. get it.
    Again, I am a black Catholic who happene to be a good citizen and republican. I am proud to be one. You liberal folks are really stupid when you potray others as iliterate ...What about you? What do you think you are? Obama has been a failed president. Just accept the fact. He is black and I am black. I don't like hhis policy. He is not going to win.

    My name is Andre Mutabeli .... good citizen ...Do what is best for this country.

    "Andre Mutabeli

    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 9:01 pm |
    • Too Many Christians, Not Enough Lions

      This just has to be Poe's Law at work. It's just too funny.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Chuck in Jasper Ga.

      Have you considered getting a real education. It is abundantly clear you have ZERO writing skills. It also appears that English is a second language for you. In addition, it is equally obvious, you have no freaking clue.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • Unplugged

      Why does this guy keep claiming to be Black? What possible difference does it make? All he is demonstrating is that illiterates and wackos of all types belong to the religious right. So what?

      April 10, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It cracks me up that Andre misspelled "illiterate".

      April 10, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  2. BillyBob

    I'm with most of the posters here. I agree with whoever said "send em to Antarctica to vote".

    April 10, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Bman

      Why pollute Antarctica? Send 'em to hell since they seem so well-acquainted with it.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
  3. Chuck in Jasper Ga.

    The lead-in to this story was , "Where do religious conservatives go?" I have a suggestion.... to hell.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Jesse

      I agree. IDIOTS & FOOLS

      April 10, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  4. Aman

    I think the religious conservatives need to grow up and realize that the rest of us don't want their religion to make choices for us. When you eliminate choice, you eliminate freedom. Is there no room in your idealism for personal moral choices, or must you legislate them all for us? Take your ball and go home.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
  5. truthknower

    To be right with God, we simply place our faith in that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, and came back to life the third day after His crucifixion, making Jesus our Savior and Lord.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • jim

      Oh Shut up. You religious fools make me want to throw up!
      Good riddance Rick...You will not be missed you idiot!

      April 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Unplugged

      There are plenty of people in the world who believe plenty of fables. I truly don't care, until they begin to push their fables down my throat. Believe what you want, but once you start imposing your fantasies upon me, you are no different than the Taliban.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  6. tet1953

    I don't want to live under a Christian theocracy any more than I want to live under an Islamic theocracy.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Thinks2010

      I totally agree with your sentiments, and i am a christian (but not a conservative).

      April 10, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  7. IslandAtheist

    What would Joseph Smith do?

    April 10, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Too Many Christians, Not Enough Lions

      He would start another bank pyramid scam, like the one that got him lynched.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • jim

      Ol Joe got shot...wish it had taken longer to die for him....FOOL!

      April 10, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  8. Rob

    Where do atheist liberals go?.....STRAIGHT TO HELL WHERE THEY BELONG!!!!

    April 10, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      *laughing at you, hypocrite*

      April 10, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • perrrob

      Where do religious conservatives?

      Back to their caves where they belong.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • GinCas

      No such place as hell, except in your deluded little mind.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Rob

      The mind-numbing stupidity of your liberal, atheist retorts, show a lack of understanding of your maker. Your arrogance not to believe in a power higher than yourselves will surely come back to haunt you.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Epica

      So....just to get this straight? I should go to a make believe place that was created by people thousands of years ago that were scared of where thunder came from? No thanks I will stick with Science (Read: Facts) for all my answers.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Aezel

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

      April 10, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Aezel

      "In the affairs of the world, men are saved not by faith, but by the lack of it."- Ben Franklin

      April 10, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Rob, your inability to use commas correctly will surely come back to haunt you.

      Here:

      "Let's eat Grandma!"

      "Let's eat, Grandma!"

      Get a clue, dingus. Threats of damnation from morons like you don't scare me in the slightest.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  9. GinCas

    They'lll drop to their knees, grovel before their imaginary god, and beg to be told what, oh what, to do; then their pathetic little minds will lead them down whatever path is the meanest and most destructive to freedom for anyone who doesn't share their supernatural delusions.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
  10. Aristocles

    Outspoken? The Federal Government already has a Defense of Marriage Act as part of the US code, and most Americans are pro-life? I suppose CNN thinks social conservatives are "outnumbered" when they are a majority.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • GinCas

      Most Americans are pro-CHOICE. Quit listening to Fox propaganda and try listening to actual news!

      April 10, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Chuck in Jasper Ga.

      You dare use the term "pro-life". Pro-life is a coined phrase developed by a public relations firm to alter the perception of negativity. Pro-sounds better than anti anything. Pro-life is nothing but anti-abortion and anti-choice. Most rational people are cognizant of these facts. People claiming to be pro-life, predominately opposed the Affordable Healthcare Act which will save thousands of lives by affording "live" people the opportunity to see a doctor on a regular basis. Something that approximately 60 million people can not do at this time. Pro-life my backside. Call yourselves what you are and stop trying to give a different impression than what you are.......anti-abortion.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  11. scott

    After listening to these ignorant inbred bigots for the last year the answer to your question "where do religious conservatives go?" Id say"straight to hell I hope"!
    And good riddance.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  12. Andre Mutabeli

    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

    You sound like a liberal guy on the far left of the issues. If I may ask you...What is your belief? If you do, i invite you to debate me on any issues. Also, I would like to know your academic crdential...How far did you go in academic? Are you smarter than me? I take your comment as offensive and insulting and i challenge you to a tedhinical and challenging discussion. I am waiting for you reply.

    I am smart GOP than you think. Yes, I am a Catholic and a conservative. It's an error people make you moron. get it.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Herp derp. It's smarter than I. It's...oh, why bother? You've made so many idiotic mistakes I doubt you can even read.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • greencollarworker

      I think Andre needs a spelling coach!

      April 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
  13. Bob

    Who cares where all the religious people go now to vote? I would love to seem them all go to say Antarctica, or Western Australia, but we can only dream.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
  14. perrrob

    USA to religious whackos: go to Hell

    April 10, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • S-Hug

      Try listening to Mother Nature instead of praying to Jesus. Things in the world might get better.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  15. krippendorf

    I hear the Taliban is looking for narrow-minded religious zealots who want to impose their beliefs on the rest of the world and take women's rights back 100 years. Go vote for them.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 10, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • perrrob

      Religion is not healthy for children and other living things

      April 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Mr. Ungodly

      Ah....how many wars have been fought, how many zillions killed in the name of god?

      I pray to the Easter Bunny. My prayers are answered at the same rate as yours. Go figure!

      April 10, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  17. DavidE7

    The media are determined that it will Romney and Obama because that is the surest way to secure a second term for Obama. Santorum was right when he said that Romney would be the worst possible choice for Republicans. Romney is the poster boy for the 1 percent. He is also a Mormon. Republicans should now focus on the future rather than the past and unite behind Gingrich. He is very smart, very experienced, and seems to have matured. He could debate Obama, Romney could not.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Chuck in Jasper Ga.

      Please remove the E7 from your screen name . You embarrass me. Gingrich is a disgrace. He is a liar. He has anything but morals or family values and you think he should be President? The only Speaker of the House ever removed from that position for ethics violations. The only Speaker of the House that ever had to pay $300,000 for an investigation in reference to his ethics violations and you think he should be President? How did you make E7? My guess would be longevity. It definitely is not because of intellect.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
  18. Unplugged

    The religious right is so small and unnecessary that it is really irrelevant. They didn't have an impact with Santorum, who expects them to have an impact in the general election? After all, they can vote for a Christian who actually believes in their faith (Obama) or vote for a guy that believes in magic underpants (Romney). But in the final conclusion, the Christian right is irrelevant.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • DavidE7

      The alternative to Romney vote in the Republican Parry is greater than the pro-Romney vote. Evangelical Christians still matter.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
  19. krippendorf

    The Taliban is looking for religious zealots who want to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of their country and take women's rights back 100 years. Go vote for them.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • GinCas

      You hit the nail right on the head Krippendorf. There isn't one whits worth of difference between a christian fundamentalist and a muslim fundamentalist!

      April 10, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  20. Mindy Watson

    Go Obama 2012 baby!!!!.

    gotta get back to my p0rn shoot. Ohh Wait i gotta snort some c0ke. this will ease the pain when im getting pounded by blackzilla

    April 10, 2012 at 8:42 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.