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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. Jean

    For a start, they could practice religious conservatism in their own homes with their own families. If their lives are better for it, others will see and come willingly. Force doesn't win hearts, it only hardens them.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  2. watash

    Let these holy rollers go to church and conjure up a candidate. As they believe in Ghosts, as in holy ghost, they can have a seance and bring back Bonzo Reagan. They thought he was their knight in shining armor, or the Bush twins who collectively put this country in the hole it is in now. I suppose the majority of the folks in this country could not care less what they do. Hillary in 2016, Yeah!

    April 10, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
  3. John

    Here’s a thought.
    If God had wanted you to be president, you would be president.
    It’s part of the plan, Rick, and it’s a perfect plan.
    Don’t question the plan Rick.
    God’s answer to you prayers was…. NO.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
  4. leralph

    They can all move to the Middle East. They will feel at home under Sharia.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 10, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • zip

      Didn't seem to do much for Santorum.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • Norman

      prayer is actually proven to be 100% ineffective

      April 10, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • TR6

      Since 99% of all pastors, evangelicals, fundamentalists, televangelists and all the other assorted religious nut cases were praying for tricky Ricky to become president, I’d say prayer has been demonstrated to have absolutely no effect.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:50 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not change anything; you are so full of crap and lies. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      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! ~,~ , 😛

      April 11, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  6. reMax

    Well, I hate to rain on the Romney parade, but I'm afraid my Christian faith prevents me from voting for a Mormon. My Bible says that whoever changes the Bible is committing blasphemy. And the Book of Mormon certainly does that. I literally think to vote for the man would be a sin. Seems like my own party wants me to violate my beliefs. Curious.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • Barack Obama

      Perfect. Thanks!

      April 10, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • Norman

      haha-idiot-all religion is a cult-soem are just older than others-good-dont need uneduicated rre;ligious rednecks voting

      April 10, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      reMax,,,,,,,,

      Don't believe in everything you read in the Gospels,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      2Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
  7. Pipe-Dreamer

    FRrom the pulpit the puppet masters do pull their imaginary strings and likewise within politics the masters of illusions baffle the masses! The world will never change and the masses while ever remain the same! Love therefore has become the enemies' place cards! Hell has turned up the burners and silently waits for the next victim to fall prey to the puppet masters! "Live long and prosper!" says the Dreamer to the masses!

    April 10, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  8. Lewtwo

    White evangelicals can go join their friends in the Taliban and build a new theocracy in .... well I guess they will just have to keep looking. Nobody wants either one of them.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  9. AtheistDude

    I wonder who God will vote for!! religious people are funny in the head!

    April 10, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
  10. srichey321

    Follow their hearts but keep religion out of the govt. and public policy.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  11. Bman

    To hell.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
  12. Nate in CA

    ron paul, duh!

    he likes jesus and wants to stop bombing people, hates abortion, and wants to let gay people do gay stuff in their own gay bedrooms.

    viola!

    April 10, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
  13. Pete

    Why not leave it up to God that controls every candidate and voter. God will pick the next president just like he did the last one.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Sure thing. He's fussing about who's elected President and is so busy pulling the strings of the election that he doesn't have time to prevent the starvation of children.

      What a crock.

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

      Tom, Tom, The Piper's Son : Second the motion !

      These folks are outside of any reason AT ALL ! ! ! . It is a cop-out !

      April 10, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
  14. Jane

    "To hell" was my immediate response.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
  15. Rational

    Duh, they go to hell with no savior, or apostate themselves and convert to Mormon, only about about 3% difference in psychopathic believe systems. Earth is better without religion and governments, pretty much the same M.O. both greedy control freaks.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  16. SueEllen

    This makes me sad and mad as h-ll! We have no good Christian choices in 2012 just a muslim and a mormon.

    America in decline indeed!

    April 10, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, the drama.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • Cannibals don't eat clowns because they taste funny

      Glad you feel that way. Reactionary anachronisms are an impediment to freedom anyway.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • Aezel

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

      April 10, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • WoWT

      There were no good christian choices before Santorum dropped out either.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Regis990

      Oh SueEllen...Muslim? Still beating that dead horse?

      April 10, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • skarphace

      SueEllen: I think you meant a minority and a Mormon. The 'Muslim' conspiracy won't work this time around. Neither will the 'Communist' or 'Birther' conspiracies.

      Sorry, but you will have to rely on substance. Better hope those gas prices keep going up and the stock market crashes. Otherwise, you Teapublicans are in for another depressing 4 years. Boo hoo!

      April 10, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • leralph

      I suppose that anyone who doesn't go to YOUR church is an anti-christ of one sort or another. The fact is, that the "Christian" religion has been the cause of most wars in all recorded history.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • SueEllen

      You are all heathens

      April 11, 2012 at 12:29 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Heathen, perhaps – more truthful than Suzy, for sure!

      April 11, 2012 at 12:31 am |
  17. Bob

    Real class act "suspending" his campaign. Instead of saying he's dropping out, he used the term "suspending" so he's still allowed to rake in more donor money for his own personal use. Must be nice being able to get millions of dollars from tax payers to offset your personal expenses. Without that, and without what he derisively calls "Obamacare" he'd have to go broke treating his sick daughter. But now insurance can't deny his daughter life-saving treatments (and without his government-run insurance when he was a Senator, odds are his daughter would have died a month after birth like most children with her disease). Now he gets to have his daughter get treatment AND get to keep millions in campaign funds for his own personal crusades (like burning books, harassing hollywood, erecting a statue to himself, etc). Being an American is great (if you're in the 1%).

    April 10, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • well

      You are just a sad, angry little man, aren't you?

      April 10, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Not as sad as you are, well. It's your hero that's dropped out and given up.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • well

      You're funny Tom. Not in a "wow that was clever" way. More of a dancing squirrel, "what's wrong with that guy" kind of way.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Uh-huh. Do tell us all how brilliant you are, dear.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And FYI, I'm not a guy.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • well

      And FYI your name expresses the deep set confusion you must feel. Being so brilliant, yearning for the recognition you are due, yet always just a dancing squirrel, blathering to strangers on a web forum.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And yet, YOU'RE the one responding to my posts. How's that for irony?

      Hey, moron, have you figured out that "found" is the past tense of "find"?

      April 10, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Your witlessness resembles that of Uncouth Swain, welly. Are you one and the same? Or just equally dumb?

      April 10, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • well

      Wow, obsess on one post much? If this is the depth of your wisdom, I pity you. Actually I do. You seem very full of anger and an empty arrogance which leads to redirected self loathing.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, gophers! Thanks ever so for your 'expert' opinion, honey. I'll give it all the consideration it deserves.

      Just as soon as I finish laughing at the way I mopped the floor with you. Nighty-night, sweet cheeks.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • Stan Himself

      Tom easily won that small and strangely unfocused flame war (phlegm war?). Good job, Tom. Your check is in the mail.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
  18. xmxm

    If only his prayers had helped.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  19. Drew

    Pro life and Pro Marriage is Anti Freedom. I will not miss the thought of this whackjob sniffing the oval office.

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

      So you are anti-life and anti-marriage? Interesting philosophy..

      April 10, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I doubt that's the case, well, but you wouldn't get the point if the poster stated he/she was pro-choice and pro-equal rights.

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

      Tom, I quite understand that the poster believes those who don't agree with him/her are the spawn of Satan or just foolish. Shallow minded, opinionated folks like that populate both sides of the political divide. I think it comes from a subconscious inferiority complex.
      I just found the phrasing amusing.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'm sure you did.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • well

      I did use the present tense. Try to keep up.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Really? "Found" is the present tense? On what planet, dumbazz?

      April 10, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • GinCas

      Actually Drew, he's not Pro-life (I haven't heard him condemning the killing of doctors who perform abortions) . . . HE'S ANTI-CHOICE; and he's not Pro-marriage (he actually opposes marriage for anyone who doesn't love according to HIS views), he's ANTI-MIXED GENDER marriage. Your sentiments are perfectly stated though . . . he IS a whackjob, just like the self-righteous, deluded lemmings who support him.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Still trying to figure out tenses, welly?

      April 10, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • well

      Sorry, thought you were questioning my ability to understand...
      I couldn't imagine someone questioning what I find amusing. Now I can....

      April 10, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Where do you see a question in my response? I simply acknowledged that you found something amusing, as you stated. What was so difficult for you to grasp?

      April 10, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I retract my guess as to your other screen name, welly. You're too dull to be Uncouth Swain.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • well

      It is bizarre to spend so much time obsessing about me. You really should find some friends. Go out and live life. You seem so full of anger. Are you sitting alone in the dark typing angry missives to much? Just think about it. It might help you.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nah. This is an amusement for me. I like beating up little dorks like you. It's easy and fun.

      And you're so gullible you take the bait every time.

      Thanks for playing!

      April 10, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
  20. reason

    Instead of finding another religious candidate these zeolots should keep their religion out of politics!

    April 10, 2012 at 9:30 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.