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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. PoBoy

    So Christian Conservatives would select Barabas over Jesus.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Hell, PoBoy, not only wouldn't these christian consevatives recognize Jesus – they'd crucify him all over again.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  2. RonFromNM

    I've got an idea for how the religious conservatives can proceed: STOP JAMMING YOUR BELIEFS DOWN EVERYONE ELSE'S THROATS! Don't like abortion? Don't get one. Don't like gay marriage? Don't get one. Stop telling other people how to live.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • anagram_kid

      Or maybe figure out why their s*x lives are unsatisfying instead of focusing on everyone else’s...

      April 11, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  3. anagram_kid

    Don’t worry evangelicals, Gov. Romney will bring on all the hate that far right Christians gobble up. He will be sure to let you know that he hates the poor just like you do. I mean if there is one thing Christ is known for it was his abject hatred of the less fortunate, right?

    April 11, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  4. Paul

    Pray?

    April 11, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  5. Honestuck

    I am a religious conservative and I am not voting in the Presidential elections if Mitt Romney is our candidate.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • asdrel

      Thank you

      April 11, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  6. Fred

    boo

    April 11, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  7. Rob

    I am conservative and I take umbrage to CNN using 'religious right' or other epithets that they continually use to brainwash its readers. Clinton and the current fool in office certainly are as religious as any other politicians!

    April 11, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Ting

      LOL! Clinton is not religious. He just plays the part to appease the masses.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Carrier

      Clinton never based his policies on religious ideology.
      I don't think Romney will either. He didn't in MA, so why would he start now? Santorum on the other hand...

      April 11, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  8. Jayson

    Social issues like abortion among others should not be handled at the federal level. They should be left to the individual states

    April 11, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Ting

      Maybe, but if you give the states too much control then things could get out of hand. The f uped Bible belt might try to reinstate slavery.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • clouseau2

      They ARE being handed at the state level. Republicans spend every moment of every day thinking up new ways to punish women for having a uterus, and that's all at the state level.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  9. marcia

    Who cares what religious conservatives think. There IS a separation between church and state!
    Religious conservatives are a bunch of self righteous clowns who think they have a hot line to heaven! They are jokes!

    April 11, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  10. Gary Hill

    Mormon vs Muslim. Cult vs Cult. We ALL lose.

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

      Religion is poison to the human race.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  11. statman29

    The evangelicals will now show what flaming hypocrites they are bu supporting Romney. Doesn't matter. Obama will crush him in November.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  12. buckeyenonbeliever

    How about putting down the myth laden bible, roll up your sleeves and actually do something productive for society and your fellow man?

    Stop hiding behind the bible to justify bigoted, racist, and mysoginistic views. That would be a good place to start.

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

      Reason not religion, education not indoctrination!!!!!!!!

      April 11, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Hear This

      Hear! Hear!

      It *can* happen. I am a former conservative believer who dumped the myths, legends and superst'itions.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Steve the Atheist

      You mean praying doesn't contribute to society? Haha, good post!

      April 11, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  13. ralphie

    Once again we Americans will have two sucky choices for President and Republicans will have a non-Convention (like why bother) and millions of dollars will be spent on advertising when I'm pretty sure we all know Romney will win anyway.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Carrier

      You are deluded if you think Romney will even stand a chance. It will be Obama by a landslide again.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • ralphie

      (My reply to Jaques) You bring hope to the situation!

      April 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  14. Bob

    They could vote for Obama, he's no worse than the bunch of "conservatives" spreading their lies.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  15. JPX

    Who cares what they do given their complete intolerance of anyone who does not think exactly how they think. It always amuses me that "religious conservatives" are the most un-Christian people around. How do you justify preaching the word of God yet bash gays, women, and minorities in the same breath. What a wonderful bunch of people. I'd musch rather spend time around the atheists.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Case in point...my wife's aunt was spouting off at the weekend. She is what would be considered 'religious right' and she was moaning about everyone and then had to nerve to start bashing Catholics because 'they are intolerant'
      It was all my wife could do to keep a straight face.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  16. Saboth

    What will the "religious conservative" do? Hopefully stop voting on nonsensical issues like the President's religion and abortion topics, and start voting for the guy that will run this country the best.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  17. EatRunDive

    Vote for the guy who believes that traditional marriage should be between one man and as many wives as he can afford!

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

      So vote for the one that believes the Bible? Isn't that what most Americans do?

      April 11, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  18. WachetAuf

    Religious conservatives need to start listening to a new voice, one which seems to have been ignored: Jesus' message, the "Word".

    First, Jesus' message was directed to individuals. He did not invite individuals to congregate and organize into religious or political groups. He simply invited them to follow the law, old and new. Jesus was offended by, and took aim at, the one organized religion of his day. Organized religion killed him. HERD INSTINCTS, GROUP THINK amplify the worst primitive instincts in all of us. Jesus asked each of us to think for himself, to go into a closet and pray, to turn the other cheek, to not cast the first stone, etc. Ever heard these messages? Ever think that it might be the start of a real adventure to start implementing these messages into your own lives and asking others to do so?

    So, now we hear that the Christians are looking for someone, an authority figure, to tell them what to do. There will be many of these voices around to tell them. And, most will surrender the common sense that God gave to them. Their minds, as it has been for two thousand years, will be possed by someone else tell them what to do, how to vote. They will gather in huge masses, shout, scream, slander, blocking out of their minds all things which do not fit the master plan of the herd. It is frightening.

    I tell you that if Mr. Romney were the leader that the Bible tells us to expect, he would have quit his job, given his property away, and walked through this Country carrying Jesus' message and recruiting disciples. He would not be seeking power for himself or any group, political or religious. He would tell us that the power is in the Word BECAUSE THE REAL POWER IS NOT IN MAN BUT IN THE WORD. He would tell us we must undertake the adventure to promote real change.

    Otherwise, the vote for one group or another is meaningless and it is impossible to know through herd instincts where the devil sits. The devil is in the details. I am sure that what he is doing in the details is clouding our minds and our judgment. Satan's greatest trick was to convince the world that he does not exist.

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

      Please tell me where I might find the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have searched the bible to no avail. Ohhhh, that is right, there isn't one. So surely I should read the Gospels of all his disciples for their experience with Jesus? Ohhhh sorry, it states right in my bible that these gospels were not written by said disciple (aka forgeries).

      You are chasing a myth created by early church fathers who constructed this story to attain some power and control of others chief. Try again please.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  19. Recovering Republican

    This situation is too funny. Conservanazis are going to have to support a Mormon, or allow Obama to win before November ever gets here. Like the platypus, this proves that God truly has an excellent sense of humor.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  20. Chris

    Maybe they could just pray. Just like they pray for everything else.

    I'm sure the magical man in the clouds will fix everything for you. Just pray, pray, pray....

    Id iots

    April 11, 2012 at 1:14 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.