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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. SoFunny

    A true statement, “One is felt by people who care a great deal about social issues, especially white evangelicals, who are uncomfortable with Mitt Romney.” Remember Romney is not a Christian, he's Morman!

    April 11, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Chris

      Either way, they are all members of cults. One is just more accepted than the other.

      You can all pray to the magical man in the clouds. Good luck with that

      April 11, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  2. Jim

    Duh! We will vote for Romney! Obama wasn't every democrat's favorite in 2010 was he? What's the big deal? Republicans will vote for Republicans.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • BRC

      That sentiment right there "Republicans will vote for republicans", the thought that even if someone is n't their first choice people might not take a second look at all the available opinions and consider going out of party, is why I hate the 2 party system, and find it to be a detriment to this nation.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  3. tonyl

    Well, between Romney and Obama we all know that Obama is a converted liberal christian and Romney is a Mormon. Romney is definitely not a christian. Conservatives can vote for the christian candidate or sit out and not vote for a non Christian. Besides Romney represents opposite of all the christian values. Rich and greedy and completely out of touch from the real American society. He truly represents 1% of our nations rich people. Besides he is a fake and it shows. He is not comfortable in his own skin. The man keeps offshore bank accounts in Cayman Islalnd

    April 11, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • closet atheist

      Don't be stupid. Romney has done nothing wrong. He's maximizing his wealth using the available LEGAL means under the U.S. tax code. You would do the same.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • tonyl

      Do you know the meaning of the word "ethical"? maybe not. A American president can be lawful but has to be ethical as well to get the majority votes. This is what's wrong with our society.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • lily

      Would you people stop attacking my religion!!! I am a Christian!

      I believe that Jesus Christ, the son of the Living God, came down and redeemed the sins of all mankind and rose again on the third day so we can return and live with him. I may not believe in the 4th century idea of the "trinity" but rather in the 1st century idea of the Godhead (three separate beings, how else could Stephen have seen "Christ standing on the right hand side of God?). Why does that make me not a Christian? I believe in Christ!

      Let me practice my religion, I let you practice yours. I can't believe we are having this discussion on a political article!!

      April 11, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  4. sam

    "indyfan2," Mormons to believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Mormons believe they act as one, but are three separate. The concept that they're one is not in scripture anywhere, thus it can not be a foundation of christianity, because it's only opinion.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • 6 seasons and a movie

      Does it matter? This crap doesn't belong in politics.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • sam

      Jimmy Carter was very religious, but believed in a separation of Church and State. He didn't get elected when people found out about it. They thought he was going to be a "right-wing Christian" in office.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  5. Bob

    I am a religious conservative that supported Santorum and now I will throw my full support to Romney as will all the other Santorum supporters. This is a non-story.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  6. Junin

    What's that about "the opiate of the masses"?

    April 11, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  7. FireBreathingElk

    Did this Scheffler guy really just refer to our current president as "something we can't live with"?

    It's getting harder and harder to deny the racism, guys. But keep it up, you still have some people fooled.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  8. mklsgl

    Romney could ask Eric Cantor (definitely conservative and definitely religious) to share the ticket as VP. Santorum is a Catholic, not an Evangelical.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  9. soul68

    What will religious conservatives do? How about minding their own business for starters. Why is it they are never going to be happy until they've dictated to everyone else how to live their lives?

    April 11, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  10. AndersonPooper

    What will religious conservatives do? Are they looking for suggestions? I have a few ...

    April 11, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Howard

      GOD helps those who help themselves ... not those who help themselves to other people's hard earned money ... like Barack Obama. America needs a commander and chief ... not a liar and thief, like Obama. Obama's m.o. has always been to blame, smear, humiliate, demonize, and discredit his opponents ... because he can't run on his own failed record. In November. SAVE AMERICA ... DUMP OBAMA !!!

      April 11, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • todd in DC

      Lets see. Obama::

      saved thousands of jobs in the auto industry
      stopped bin Laden
      ended the Iraq war
      is ending the Afghan war
      ended DADT
      stopped defending DOMA
      pulled us out of the Great Recession
      got various jobs bills passed.

      you have a strange idea of "failed president".

      April 11, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • sam

      God does not say anywhere in the scriptures that He helps those who help themselves. This is a lie. What it says in scripture is to submit to God's will, not your own will. It also says to take care of your neighbor and help those who are less fortunate. I can't help it if you've never read the Bible, but get it right.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  11. Ken

    They should take a look at the world and realize religion is the source of all evil. Religion and governemnt don't mix.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  12. Gary

    Religious Right. Get a life. The majority of US citizens long ago rejected your basic message that your beliefs and practices are better than others.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  13. Clark Nova

    They should just stay home on election day and pray. Yeah, that's the ticket.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  14. Reality

    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 1:00 pm |
    • Bob

      FAIL

      April 11, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  15. Amy/PA

    Research each canidate yourself before voting....don't believe everything you read

    April 11, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  16. Amy

    What about Ron Paul? You can't get more Christian then him. Why does CNN continue to ignore him?

    April 11, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • BRC

      because the religious consertives never did

      April 11, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • indyfan2

      Because he is still a racist and we do not need another Texan in the White House.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • matt

      if Ron Paul secured ANY GOP delegates, then he may figure into the equation.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Bob

      Because he is just an OB/GYN who doesn't understand a damn thing about politics.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • todd in DC

      Because Paul hasn't won a single primary or caucus.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  17. Rsprings

    Well..they need to suck it up and get on board. No mater how you slice it Romney is further to the right than Obama. The country cannot afford 4 more years of Obama

    April 11, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • What

      It's funny, I know the fact for last 4 years was better than the one before. Why don't you look back for the last 2 years of Bush?

      April 11, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Howard

      GOD helps those who help themselves ... not those who help themselves to other people's hard earned money ... like Barack Obama. America needs a commander and chief ... not a liar and thief, like Obama. Obama's m.o. has always been to smear, humiliate, demonize, and discredit his opponents ... because he can't run on his own failed record. In November. SAVE AMERICA ... DUMP OBAMA !!!

      April 11, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • sam

      Howard, it does not say anywhere in scripture that God helps those who help themselves. Instead, it says you should submit to God's will.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • soul68

      @HOWARD funny how the first thing people like you go running to is some sort of attack on government welfare when thats only a fraction of the entire story. But go ahead keep voting for Republicans who continue to sell out the middle class in this nation; the very group of people that have made this country's standard of living possible.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  18. denman838

    Frankly, I'm fed up with and couldn't care less what the Religious Conservatives do. They consistently paint themselves into an ideological corner, and then act surprised and confused when it becomes apparent that (once again) their guy doesn't stand a chance of winning.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • What

      for the fairness of all the people, the president should not believe in any religion, period.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things,

    April 11, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      Warning
      Fake Jesus alert, do not read or engage fake Jesus as it is unable to provide any proof when asked

      April 11, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • What

      You are siko, Scary. Did you guys know? Religion people, when you show up at my door, Do you realize how scare I am?

      April 11, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • What

      Some thing is wrong with your head, but you did not even notice. Please go get your head check out

      April 11, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  20. KJ

    This is great. Conservatives have to vote for someone who is not a christian over someone who is, even though they refuse to believe it. Oh the irony.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Cannon

      If you ignore the talking salamders and whatnot, aren't Mormons considered Christians?

      April 11, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Meanwhile, back to the article...

      Absolutely. And many will compound their hypocrisy by asserting that "Obama is a Muslim" in order to justify voting for someone they believe to be a cult member. The phrase in Staver's quote above, "conservatives and people of faith", is the crux of the heresy. "Conservative" and "person of faith" are not synonyms. If you believe they are, in this unique race it will lead you into all kinds of logical twists and turns. If you believe, as many evangelicals do, that Mormon beliefs are not strictly Christian, then you have three choices: vote for the conservative, vote for the Christian, or lie to yourself and be a hypocrite.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • indyfan2

      Morman do not accept the Trinity which is the foundation of Christianity.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • sam

      Mormons and Christianity: I thought being a Christian meant believing in Jesus Christ as your Savior. Why do you want to claim Mormons are not Christian when they believe Jesus Christ is their Savior?

      April 11, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Rob

      @Meanwhile... Hypocrisy is the specialty of conservative Christians. They won't have any trouble at all lying to themselves and being hypocrites. They do it every day. They claim the Bible is literally true, but you'd be hard-pressed to find even one who actually lives their life in complete accord with how the Bible says to live. Even if you somehow did find such a one, they would be so out there in right field that even other Christians would call them crazy.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • lily

      Wow people... Are we still on the Non-Christian fling? Of course Mormons are Christians! Go and get your facts straight!

      Evangelicals say that Mormons are not Christians because they are afraid Mormon missionaries will come and take away their congregations (and hence their livelihood). Mormon clergy are not paid a cent, but you bet evangelicals are! This is why Evangelicals have always hated Mormons and spread lies about them. They are honesty scared of them!

      We are all Christians in America... Why can't we just get along?!?!?

      April 11, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • closet atheist

      There's only one kind of "holy trinity" that I'm into.... I think the french have a different name for it....

      April 11, 2012 at 1:29 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.