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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. reason

    Evil and ignorance was defeated.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:01 am |
  2. Prayer changes things

    Prayer failed, again.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:55 am |
  3. Kebos

    By the way, Santorum typifies the lying face of politics in America. How he ever was able to become a Senator in the US government shows how corrupt and broken the American political system is. And how misguided many, many people in America are.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:25 am |
  4. Kebos

    That picture in this article of a bunch of grown men putting hands in each other is so pathetic. What a bunch of foolish people. With Santorum out of the scene, their little club is in disarray. Pathetic bunch!

    April 11, 2012 at 6:14 am |
    • reason

      It is a funny picture. Did the prayer fail because the guy in the upper right peeked?

      April 11, 2012 at 6:52 am |
  5. 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 5:51 am |
    • Kebos

      God just wanted him to wait. It wasn't yet his time. I'm sure that's what they'll claim. God has a master plan, don't you know. Ha!

      April 11, 2012 at 6:27 am |
  6. bereanstudent

    Ron Paul is the only remaining conservative pro-life Christian candidate remaining in the race for President. As an OB/GYN he delivered 4,000+ babies and refused to perform any abortions.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:27 am |
    • TR6

      And this qualifies him to be president?

      April 11, 2012 at 5:43 am |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for chickens and other living poultry

    Rick Santorum prayed and prayed. His followers also prayed and prayed.

    Prayer almost works. Proven

    April 11, 2012 at 2:43 am |
  8. The Real Powerbrokers In The GOP

    Rest assured, fellow conservatives, we have known this was coming for some time, and we're already prepared for the Romney situation.

    Come the convention, there will be some Old School politicking, some good old fashioned smoke-filled rooms and private handshake deals. We, the Republican Party, are allowed to put forward our best hope, even if that individual did not win the primaries – they didn't have to even run.

    Neither we nor the Democrats have really done this since the 60s, but it's hidden in the fine print still.

    And who will emerge as the real candidates? Let's just say it's a real dream team for president and vice president, barracuda tough with a bit of witchcraft.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:39 am |
    • TR6

      Well, since the religious right believes all the nutty stuff in the bible, they can probably even swallow this too

      April 11, 2012 at 3:31 am |
  9. Sean

    Really, pathetic! -'but I’ll support him because the alternative is something we can’t live with.' Well, live with it!

    April 11, 2012 at 1:17 am |
  10. Holly in CA

    The real issue, that CNN won't address, is that Evangelicals, particularly in the deep South, are taught in their churches to hate Mormons. They are taught that Mormons aren't Christians (which is funny since both Mormons and Evangelicals worship Jesus as their Savior). Now these Evangelicals are in a tough spot, support a Mormon candidate, turn Democrat, or stay home.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • Such a pity

      Evangelicals in the Deep South aren't terribly happy about blacks either.

      Such a tough choice for them. It makes me feel so sad for them. HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!

      April 11, 2012 at 2:13 am |
  11. HotAirAce

    Unfortuantely Ricky's bailing out has made Newt "The Fornicator" Gingrich think he's got another life. When will the Fat Lady sing for this piece of sh!t? Too bad "George" has run away as a result of taking a repeaded pounding from the atheists here – it would have been great to get his take on his hero pulling out. I can only imagine the whinging!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 12:27 am |
    • sam stone

      You know "George" would have found a way to spin it.

      April 11, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  12. Laurie

    I am afraid it all seems hopeless for America. Your choice for president will be to choose bad or to choose worse.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • Alien Orifice

      I plan to choose outstanding! Obama four more years!

      April 11, 2012 at 12:13 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      woohoo! Obama! yay!

      can't imagine how terrible a nutjob christian zealot like santorum would be as president. "i've proposed a new bill that says if americans don't study their bible at least 2 hours a day, they can be flogged. can i get an amen?"

      April 11, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • tallulah13

      No, Laurie, that's just the choices in the republican party. While I don't always agree with President Obama's decisions, he's a far better choice than anyone the republican party has put forward.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:47 am |
    • The Bottom Line

      It's not so bad as that, Laurie. Best as a choice between bland and blander. Neither are amazing, but neither are as bad a W.

      Better a mediocre president than a really bad one.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:17 am |
    • Oldster

      Laurie,

      I've heard that lament, "Well, I don't like either one, but I'll vote for the lesser of two evils" ever since I was old enough to know that elections were going on... probably in the early 1950s. Buck up, girl.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:46 am |
    • johnfrichardson

      The choice for president or prime minister in almost all countries is almost always different shades of mediocre with an occasional absolutely abysmal thrown in. The country will readily survive either Obama or Romney. I expect to be voting for Obama, despite multiple deep disgruntlements with him of late. With Santorum sidelined, the forces of darkness in the culture wars don't have a horse in the race anymore, which is a good thing.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:53 am |
    • sam stone

      Laurie, this "bad to worse" comparison has been made before, and America has survived

      April 11, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  13. Saved

    I was saved by Yellowstone Park.
    I was saved by the Mojave Desert.
    I was saved by sour milk.
    I was saved by an ice cold beer.
    I was saved by a juicy New York steak.
    I was saved by a salad.
    I was saved by a dead bird.
    I was saved by a starving kitten.
    I was saved by a rainy day.
    I was saved by an earthquake.
    Jesus was not there. We are alone.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:03 am |
    • johnfrichardson

      Saved from what? May something save you, and by extension the rest of us, from your muse.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:54 am |
  14. Reality

    ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS:

    Why the Christian Right no longer matters in presidential elections:

    Once again, all the conservative votes in the country "ain't" going to help a "pro-life" presidential candidate, i.e Mitt Romney, Newton Leroy Gingrich, Ron Paul or Rick Santorum (exit right), in 2012 as the "Immoral Majority" rules the country and will be doing so for awhile. The "Immoral Majority" you ask?

    The fastest growing USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million "IM" voters in 2012.

    2008 Presidential popular vote results:

    69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM.

    And the irony:

    And all because many women fail to take the Pill once a day or men fail to use a condom even though in most cases these men have them in their pockets. (maybe they should be called the "Stupid Majority"?)

    The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and S-TDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer birth control methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.

    i.e. If the Pill and male condoms were used properly, abortion would not be an issue and Obama would not be president.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:00 am |
  15. Mocoso

    Uhaooo, I never see catholics praying like this. I which all religious come together and talk in a civilized manner. I think we need to realize that religion guide individuals not political parties. Stop the show because Obama runs it. Let's talk about issues ... yes, the economic issue. Forget about religion because I honestly believe that Obama as Romney have great values, family values that most people expect at least from a President. The difference is clear and I am not trying to follow news or any other source, there is one good social communicator as President interested in Social Issues. Today our problem is our Economy and in that regard, Romney has higher skills for this job. If we postpone for future Presidents, it will be too late and impossible to save this country. Easy again!!!!

    April 10, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • Sarah Hart

      There is still time. No need to postpone for the future. You can have your choice among many candidates at Americans Elect. I support David Jon Sponheim for President on that site.

      April 11, 2012 at 12:01 am |
  16. Tal Luken

    Dan Gilgoff, CNN, in his article, "With Santorum suspending campaign, some religious conservatives wonder how to proceed". Is the first to hit the nail right on the head. There is no way many of us "Born Again Believers" could ever face our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ in Heaven and say we voted for an ANTICHRIST like Romney. "1 John 2:22, Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son." In my debates with Mormons they reject Jesus is the Christ. So, looks like I have to write in a candidate, maybe Rick Santorum or Michelle Bachman. I have no choice.

    April 10, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • A Yook

      And you know what else? Romney butters his bread with the BUTTER SIDE DOWN!!!

      April 10, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • Sarah Hart

      You actually have many choices available to you via Americans Elect. I am personally supporting David Jon Sponheim on there.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • lee

      You obviously have not debated any real Mormons as there would not be one of them who would deny Jesus as the Living Christ. It is too bad that you are so ignorant and misinformed if informed at all. Every book of scripture Mormons have including the Bible and the Book of Mormon testify that Jesus is the Christ. Mitt Romney's testimony of Christ would put you to shame. Like I say, you have no credibility in debating a "mormon". You never have, just admit it.

      April 11, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      music to my ears. christians hate Romney. lol. music to my ears.

      Obama's got to be laughing his @ss off. election in the bag. lol.

      eat it, republicans.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:09 am |
    • Alan Aragon

      You say that the Mormon faith does not believe in Jesus the Christ? Yet... It's called the church as of JESUS CHRIST of latter day saints. I think that as a christian, you should do more research and less judging about what others believe.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:42 am |
    • tallulah13

      Here's a novel thought, Tal Luken: Why not vote for the candidate who is best for the country as a whole, not just the one that adheres to your own narrow belief? How about a candidate that very correctly holds the Consti.tution as the authority of this nation (not any religious book) because our founding fathers very deliberately separated church from state in order to protect the beliefs of everyone?

      April 11, 2012 at 1:51 am |
    • johnfrichardson

      Obama has gotten more than a little wobbly on the separation of church and mandates.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:57 am |
    • sam stone

      So, Tal, your choice for a president is dependent upon how mad god is going to be when you get to see him?

      April 11, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  17. Pipe-Dreamer

    Ooops!,,,,, My label is showing! My Bad!

    April 10, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  18. Pipe-Dreamer

    Scenes from future,,,,,,,,,

    A child is born. He ages into puberty and then gets screwed! Later, this child becomes a man and in realizing he screwed a bit too early,,, he began to cry!

    April 10, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  19. momoya

    So was it god's will for him to fail, or did he mistake god's will from the outset.. Fundiots.. you can't explain that!

    April 10, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      Like a teenager playing the Sims, I definitely think god wanted him to fail. He's pretty sadistic that way, but having read the bible, you already know that.

      April 11, 2012 at 12:00 am |
  20. AGuest9

    "How to proceed"? Didn't they see that Tennessee has just allowed any screw-ball idea to be taught as "science" in their schools now???

    April 10, 2012 at 10:46 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.