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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. Good Riddance

    Now he can go back to whatever it is people like him do. Probably something disgusting and weird concerning their Catholic extremism, like fighting against molested children or saying any kind of stem cell is evil or making long, self-serving, pompous and public prayers in front of the media.
    You know....that Catholic nutjob stuff. Wearing dresses and custom Italian shoes as they refuse to help people or do the right thing. That stuff. There's enough bribe money floating around so Santorum won't be needing to go on food stamps like everyone else.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
  2. Hahahahahaha

    Jesus is a liberal. Don't republicans (notice I didn't say conservatives since republicans are NOT conservatives) believe in Jesus? Hahahahahahaha

    April 10, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Drew

      Jesus would find the religious right to be full of hypocrites and haters

      April 10, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  3. jqent

    Notice... The ONLY woman in this picture (I think it is a woman) is way over near the wall at the back of the room, by the door.
    Yep, the Religicans do have a place for you, ladies! Over by the door, cupcake, with the coffee machine..

    April 10, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Brian

      Clean your glasses and look again lol...

      April 10, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • well

      Even a cursory glance showed me nine.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • Troop

      I only see a possible seven going by hairdos.
      But it's a disgusting picture of corrupt sleazeballs going through the motions as they attempt yet again to parade their beliefs in hopes of gaining money and power. Sluits on parade, pretending to be doing something and failing. All aboard the failbus!

      April 10, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
  4. hawk in texas

    The evangels love santorum but dislike romney. one is a morman the other is a catholic, my self i fail to see any difference between a mormon and a catholic. they are both cults. we need a president that is for the working class people not a preacher. we go to church on sunday for that. we also do not need a president that wants to do away with public education. and as far as santorum home schooling his children he lied about where he lived and got them in a costly private school. in fact he told so many lies i am suprised that the evangels stood by him.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Ah, but..

      That is why they stood by him. They are some of the biggest liars in the country. They will support Romney for the same reason, it's just that Santorum had the true fire of insanity which drew them like flies to santorum.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  5. Mitt Hater

    We got rid of one total loser...now on to the next total loser....Hear me Mittens? You tool!

    April 10, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  6. psact

    It's time for the religious right to take their Taliban-like war on women and war on intelligence to a new place...far away from the USA.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  7. Connect The Dots................. :-)

    Does anyone here really know what love is all about?

    April 10, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • daneste613

      yes. anything else you want to know?

      April 10, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • hawk in texas

      Love? Thats a feeling i get when i'm feeling.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • Connect The Dots................. :-)

      daneste613,,,,,,,

      Is love a worthwile thing to seek? Where can I find love?

      April 10, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Connect The Dots................. :-)

      hawk in texas,,,,,,

      "feeing? sorry but I have no idea about feeling,,,,,,,,

      April 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  8. Lynn Jeppsen

    Can some intelligent human being explain to me why Evangelicals WON'T vote for Romney because he is a member of The Church Of Jesus Christ of L.D.S when they have never set foot inside an L.D.S. church to see that they center their whole services to Jesus Christ yet they will vote for a man who was brought up as a Muslim who has not set foot inside a church since leaving his mentor's church (Rev, Wright) who DAMNED WE AMERICANS and said we deserved what happened to us on Sept. 11th? Am I the only one who thinks this is odd? Yes, Rick Santorum is a good Christian man, but so is Mitt Romney.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • jqent

      Let me guess... he's also a Muslim, right?

      April 10, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Mitt

      Mitt is liar! He lies to everyone....as for LDS...total freak losers!

      April 10, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • God's creation

      Lynn Jeppsen,,,,,,

      Why concern one's self with worldly happenstance? Will not the world take care of its' own?

      April 10, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • timz

      @Lynn Jeppsen: Did you miss the commandment against bearing false witness? Barack Obama was not raised as a Muslim and I'm pretty sure that he's managed, at least once since he became President, to enter a church.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • hawk in texas

      I have news for you, racist. president Obama has been inside many churches since leaving rev. wright. fox news has surley damaged your brain if you had one to start with.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Pastafarian

      All religions are moronic crutches for the weak-minded. No branch of christianity is any less of a cult than LDS. They're all cults. Why is this obvious point so hard for religious people to see???

      April 11, 2012 at 12:25 am |
  9. Nicole

    Let's help them find and fund a third party canidate. Seriously, splitting off the tea party vote from the repulican party can only lead to good thi gs.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
  10. jqent

    Where should the religious conservatives go? Well, i can offer a short list, but will tactfully refrain. Instead, I would suggest that they go to church for their "religious," and to the polls for their "conservative." If they can't find a candidate who could succeed in imposing their narrow-minded vision on the nation, they might consider moving to Iran, where many of that theocratic dictatorship's social goals mirror their own.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • Same here

      Good points.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
  11. glorydays

    Don't know, but I don't want to be anywhere close...

    April 10, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  12. Pastafarian

    wow. it's hard to believe there are still people this ignorant on the planet, much less, in this country. keep your religion in the closet where it belongs!

    April 10, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  13. sir_ken_g

    ...home to pout – as usual.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  14. Horseman14

    They should go to church, get on their knees and ask Jesus if they should help feed the hungry and provide medical assistance to the sick or to just tell them to get a job and help the wealthy.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
  15. Jim

    Get over it christian taliban, Jesus just said NO loudly to your political/religious mixing.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
  16. bob572176

    The religious conservatives are ruining this country, so who really cares what they do I don't. They have managed to give us some of the worst presidents of all time Reagan and George W to start with. They give us Sara Palin really not a brain cell up there. There are real political issues out there and they focus on abortion, as China continues to grow as a world power. Who created that yes the conservative republican so when you ask where are the jobs all you have to do is look at the conservatives they are the ones who have sent your jobs away oh with the rest of the republicans too. Republicans the best thing that ever happen to China.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  17. MagnuM

    My suggestion for religious conservatives is to do us all a favor and cast a "protest vote" by staying home on election day. Anyone that ignorantly puts social issues ahead of fiscal issues should not be allowed to vote. You are accelerating the decline of the American empire...

    April 10, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  18. Jeff Lucas

    RON PAUL is the ONLY Evangelical in the race. And he is the only Candidate that remembers it was Government that killed Jesus.

    RON PAUL accurately governs according to the Word of God and the Gospel

    April 10, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Aezel

      "Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise."- James Madison

      April 10, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • sir_ken_g

      Don't smoke that.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • northern light

      "And the day will come, when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His Father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva, in the brain of Jupiter.

      Thomas Jefferson

      April 10, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • Brack

      In my rudely scornful opinion, Ron Paul sucks the big one. A total nut job. A racist who acts like he's got tertiary syphilis on the brain. He's nuts. He pays people to support him because no one else will. He's that bad and that insane. You might as well tell us to vote for Rush Limbaugh the bloated shltbag of psychosis himself....

      April 10, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • TR6

      And that is why he is only supported by wingnuts

      April 11, 2012 at 7:34 am |
  19. achepotlex

    frreeeeaaaaakkkkssssss

    April 10, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
  20. TheRationale

    The picture is frightening.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • northern light

      America never looks at itself in the mirror................it is too frightening.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • geewhizwow

      Everything seems to be frightening in a right wingers head.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:20 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.