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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. Gandhi

    I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Ken78

      I LOVE it when non-Christians tell Christains what they think "Christ-like" is. I do not tell you what "Atheist-like" is. But if I did, I would have to cite Mao, Castro and Stalin.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Ting

      I LOVE it when non-Christians tell Christains what they think "Christ-like" is. I do not tell you what "Atheist-like" is. But if I did, I would have to cite Mao, Castro and Stalin.

      Then I would have to cite The Dark Ages, French Inquisition, Spanish Inquisition, Salam Witch trials, Jim Jones, Warren Jeffs, David Koresh, slavery in the South, and every televangelist that has every been on t.v. that steal money from the sick and the old. Not to mention the pedophile priests that get away because the Vatican sweeps it under the rug. Religion is the bases for most wars. Should I go on? Religion destroys.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  2. RichS

    Take note that the Democratic leader of the Senate is a Mormon. With that said, we are not electing a pastor, a bishop or a pope. Religion should play no part in the election of a president. I sure didn't with Obama and he is more Muslim than Christian.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • DavePhx

      And how is Obama more a Muslim than a Christian? He has stated his belief in Christ as his Savior. Are you basing that on his name or his father's Kenyan/ Muslim heritage ? Your statement exudes the ignorance and bigotry of so many right wing so called " Christian " Republicans.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  3. Bill

    The religious conservatives have too much hate in their hearts. They hate gays, women who get pregnant before they are married, labor unions, people on welfare, poor working people, the policies of Democrats, Liberals, and progressives. They hate muslims, Buddhists, and other religious icons. They hate regulations on businesses. But most of all they hate the Black man in the White House. Hate will be the downfall of the pious self-rightious "religious" conservatives and that is the way it should be.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Monica Smith

      Spot on, Bill.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Rbnlegnd101

      Word.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Ting

      Very true.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Dave

      There are elements of religious conservatives who hate as you say, but there are also elements of liberals who blow stuff up. Do you actually know any religious people, or do you write from somewhere within the confines of a liberal stronghold?

      April 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  4. Buh Bye GOP

    "Who gives a crud about what the religious conservatives think? They can spread their hate and intolerance on their own terms. All they need are some pointed white hoodies and white dress robes. To think these "evangelicals" represent Christianity is obscene."

    ^this

    April 11, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  5. Doug

    Hmmmmmmmm. I guess the Talibanevangelistas will have to run a third party candidate.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Ting

      Talibanevangelistas

      That's the "T" party. Sarah Pailin perhaps?

      April 11, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  6. Dadster

    As a Christian for most of my life, I can honestly say that conservative Christians will vote for whomever they are told to vote for. I have never seen so many with my beliefs unable to think for themselves. They will support Romney, because when it comes to politics, partisanship trumps Christianity. The Christian leaders will say it's all about life (anti abortion) but yet for 6 years (2000-20006) the self proclaimed pro-life family values party controlled the house, senate and whitehouse yet continued to do nothing to make abortions illegal in this country. Christians are to naive to understand that they were just pandered to and given lip service for their vote. Even Billy Graham was quoted as saying that Bush better understand who got him into office. I for one have taken the subject of abortion off the table when it comes to elections. As for seeing how the Republicans are trying to invoke their Reverse Robinhoodism philosophy, I will be voting for President Obama.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  7. sam

    How comes Republicans are not talking about improving the Welfare system to help people get on their own? The Mormon Church has about the most efficient Welfare system in the World. The current President of the Mormon Church actually was picked by Ronald Reagan to lead an effort to improve the country's Welfare system because of his vast experience with the Welfare system of the Mormon Church.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      because they believe that everyone on welfare are lazy criminals leeching off everyone else.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  8. Locker

    Freedom to a right-wing Christian means freedom to enforce their religious morality over everyone in the country while crying like a victim about "the war on Christmas", "the war on religion" and denying the separation of church and state. Very transparent.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Ting

      Don't forget the "This country was founded by Christians so if you don't like it leave" statement.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Monica Smith

      Ting, all the more reason to move away from dogmatic Christian rules, regulations and morals.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • sam

      I think the Founding Fathers based their beliefs more on the Masons than they did their church.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  9. wanda

    Well this is interesting!! Will the Christian right vote for a person they believe is in a CULT or Obama who is a Christian???? Hummm!!!! Better yet, do they still believe he us a Muslim!!! What to do. What to do!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Locker

      Exactly right. Right-wing Christians, en masse, don't believe or accept that our President is a Christian and an American citizen. Reality is hard.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  10. heresathought

    I would be willing to divide the country in half with 25 states all liberal and the other 25 all conservative and just have separate governments and separate elections, etc. I don't want to co-exist with the evangelical right anymore. let them have their idealistic imaginary puritanical society that will never happen and just stay there to themselves. sick of even hearing about them and what they want and "can't live with"

    April 11, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Dean

      And you are different in what way? You want to push your way of thinking upon them.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  11. Atheism is bad for my kids, cats, and my plants

    Prayer works.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • GAW

      So does Preparation H

      April 11, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Hear This

      So does "Miracle Grow".

      April 11, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Eric

      and fix-a-flat...that stuff is miraculous...

      April 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Steve the Atheist

      No it does not. The plants in my house are flourishing while my neighbor's plants are dying. She prays for them, I water mine.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Monica Smith

      Stop praying and start doing.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Rbnlegnd101

      For certain, arbitrary, values of "works". It helps if you apply a strong dose of "no true scotsman".

      April 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  12. zip

    Google "The White Horse Prophecy" before you cast a vote for Mitt Romney

    April 11, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things ,

    April 11, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      Avoid fake Jesus posts

      April 11, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Atheism is bad for my kids, cats, and my plants

      No really, prayer does work.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      like rain dances change the weather

      April 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  14. TR6

    I think that we on the left owe Ricky a big thank you for conclusively showing that Christians are not nearly as large, as powerful or as important as they have been portraying themselves.. He has demonstrated that even amongst conservatives the religious agenda is rejected

    April 11, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  15. Greg s

    You dont have a clue about religious conservatives if you think they would ever considering voting for Obama. Romney wont be any better but he wont be Obama.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Rbnlegnd101

      Politics isn't about getting them to vote for Obama. It's just about getting them to stay home and not vote on election day. Getting your supporters out to vote and convincing the other team to stay home is a huge part of american politics, and it's really quite disappointing. Having the right idea, having an effective plan, doesn't matter. Scaring people enough to get them to the polls matters. That's why we have birthers, and death panels, and accusations of socialism and all that. Not to try to argue any facts, not to change policy, but to scare the right voters off the sofa on election day.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  16. Eric

    Evangelical religious conservatives probably just shouldn't vote at all....that's not the kind of group i want making decisions on the running of our country.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Greg s

      The feeling is mutual I assure you!

      April 11, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • GAW

      In the mind of many experts the dabbling in politics by Evangelicals and their quest for power may very well be the one contributing factor in the movements demise.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Dave R.

      Where is the separation between church and state if religious views are allowed to influence politics?

      April 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  17. johnp

    I would like to see them get their eyes back on God as God and allow Him to be in control. God has far more to offer both in justice and power then the people that are in ofice. Our Bible tells us that God has appointed these people to rule. Sometimes I don't understand why. Yet that is what is so awesome about God is that His ways are much higher then ours, and He will accompplish His desires. You just want to be under His wing as He does.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • JimJ

      Do you worship a vengeful God or a loving God?

      April 11, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Greg s

      God is loving but as ancient history has shown he has limits. Its possible those limits are being tested today.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Ben

      You basically just said God is so awesome because he behaves in ways that you don't understand. You think God is awesome because the occurances you attribute to him are logically inconsistent. You're actually seeing the holes in your religion and saying to yourself "That doesn't make any sense," but then you explain it away by attibuting the obvious contradictions to God's mysterious will.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Independent Thinker....

      The only thing I can say is...WOW. If you want to believe in magical beings that is your right but when this country truly recognizes the separation of church and state; the better. You don't need to believe in a magical being to know the difference between right and wrong. One day the world will see the 'true light' and that is the fact you have been told a bunch of stories and fables to further a business. There is no man in the sky. There is no heaven. When you die, you just do that...die.

      "I contest that we are all atheists and that I believe in one less god than you. When you can explain why you reject all other possible god's; you will understand why I reject yours."

      "Give man fish, he will eat for a day. Teach man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime. Teach man religion, he will die praying for fish."

      April 11, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  18. Newt

    Who gives a crud about what the religious conservatives think? They can spread their hate and intolerance on their own terms. All they need are some pointed white hoodies and white dress robes. To think these "evangelicals" represent Christianity is obscene.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  19. NIck

    “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,”

    Social conservatives see denying equal treatment to law-abiding citizens as one of their most important issues. Just in case you guys weren't aware... when you're whining about your waning influence in society, culture, and politics, this is why. You're on a bigot's crusade, and the rest of us want nothing to do with it. Your desperate defense of traditional marriage is nothing more than thinly-veiled hated of what you don't understand. Get over it. There are more important things to worry about than others' bedrooms. You claim that your religious literature teaches this, failing to understand that your religious literature advocates a great many things you don't condone, nor would accept in a civilized society. What you see as the "rules of your religion" are no more than transient social constructs. They will change, as they always have, to suit the social evolution of humanity. It's just a matter of time. What will you choose, hatred or acceptance?

    April 11, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • clouseau2

      Nice post, Nick! Couldn't have said it better myself. When you're defining your beliefs in the form of taking rights away from others, you may want to think on which side of "good" you are!

      April 11, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • guaraya

      Religion does't fly people into buildings, hate-filled people with warped minds do. As far as flying people to the moon, it's an exciting way to spend money, but now we not only have a polluted planet, we are creating a polluted solar system filled with space junk! I agree with the inference made by GAW, that both science and religion are capable of influencing good or evil outcomes– which leads us to the motives of the human heart... and back to religion.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Greg s

      We will not just give in to the left, We will not. We will defend a childs right to life, we will cry out that two men getting Married is wacked, You may have come to accept it We have not and will not. Thats who we are.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  20. Lee

    Science flies men to the Moon.

    Religion flies men into buildings.

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

      Science also gave us the Atom Bomb (To the later regret of some of its creators) which killed over 100,000 people. So both are capable of atrocities.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • mtb312000

      I'm not religous, but I am a conservative – and you'll find out soon enough what they will do. This is a bone-headed piece of jibberish.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • guaraya

      guaraya

      Religion does't fly people into buildings, hate-filled people with warped minds do. As far as flying people to the moon, it's an exciting way to spend money, but now we not only have a polluted planet, we are creating a polluted solar system filled with space junk! History and experience demonstrate that both science and religion can influence both good or evil outcomes– which leads us to the determinant factor: the motives of the human heart.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:51 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.