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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. Bill

    This has been a strange situation from the start...evangelicals jumping on the Papal inspired bandwagon of Father Rick and now having to eat it with a heathen/Mormon! Maybe they'd be better off trying to seperate credentials and experience needed for running our country effectively from their religious/social ideas. A coup for the Obama team as it looks now.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  2. Chad

    These bearded man in the sky believers probably still believe in Santa too. Just stop it. God doesn't exist, he never did. Stop trying to extend your petty human existence into some make believe land. When you die, you go into the dirt, just like Fido.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Greg s

      Well it may be good enough for you and Fido Chad, But not me. Im off to everlasting Life. believe me my plan sounds a whole lot better then yours and I know, it has no more proof then yours, But if your right, Ill never know it as I slowly turn into worm food, But If Im right The ill get to look down on poor Chad slowly turning into worm food.

      Its kinda like the Lottery cant win if you dont play, You have chosen not to play, So if there really is a bearded Big guy in the Sky you loose!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  3. Nana1954

    Romney not my first choice, but I will NEVER vote for Obama, and yes I am an evangelical Christian.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • fofo

      I think you and yours like should just stay home or go to your church and keep praying instead of voting.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  4. PhillipJay

    So people are still oblivious to seperation of church and state?

    April 11, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Greg s

      We understand exactly what it means its the left that doesn't get it.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Primewonk

      @ Greg, what does Article VI, Section 3 of the USConsti.tution mean? What does Article 11 of le Treaty of Tripoli mean?

      Perhaps you could explain to us on the left?

      April 11, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Kay

      Actually, people (like yourself) are still oblivious to the REAL intent and meaning of "separation of church and state". Intended to protect religious liberty – to prevent the government from infringing on people's religious liberty. NOT intended to eliminate any trace of God from all aspects of government.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  5. Lance in TX

    I wish every Evangelical would check out http://www.evangelicalsformitt.com

    April 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  6. Nate

    How can this author say Santorum had the support of Catholics. In almost every primary Catholics backed Romney. Maybe ultra-nutbag-conservative Catholics like himself supported Santorum. But not the majority....and in the general they'll probalby support Obama, again!

    April 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  7. BD

    I'd like to know what religious fundamental movement moved humanity forward? Keep all your myths to yourself you evangelicals. Yours are no more true than any others. Why is that so hard to see? It's sheer arrogance to believe that you are right and everyone else is wrong on something that cannot be proven. Geez.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Greg s

      I agree BD but do you have a mirror in your pocket?

      April 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Russ

      William Wilberforce – ended slavery in British Empire...
      because he arrogantly believed he was right due to his fundamentalist ideas...
      like the 'unprovable' idea that everyone is made in God's image...

      April 11, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  8. TR6

    I think we all owe a debt of grati-tude to Rick Santorum for demonstrating to the world the true power of prayer.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • jb1963

      Until his dirty little secrets come out.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Ting

      Well played.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNRvKviXbU0

      April 11, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Lvphnx12

      Christianity is a farce. If you look at the cannons that weren't added to the bible you'll see why. It doesn't paint a pretty picture. Besides throughout the old testament incest was rampant. Look to the book of jubilee

      April 11, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • docame

      I prayed for him to stay in the race. Why not? The laughs were good. Too bad he weaseled out at the last minute. Too bad he coouldn't man up to the fact he is a loser, instead of hiding behind his sick child – who is likely using healthcare that Sanitation wants to vote down.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Greg s

      You dont understand, God gives us the leaders we deserve, He is obviously very unhappy with America today, I can tell this by our present President.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • just sayin

      Greg, you are so adorable.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Ting

      You dont understand, God gives us the leaders we deserve

      So why pray at all?

      April 11, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Greg s

      I don't know you "Just sayin", But Im 99.9 percent sure there are folks out there who feel the same about you. Isn't Life wonderful! when Liberals and Us religious freaks get together to trash talk each other! Such Fun!!! Its better then watchin Swamp People!!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  9. Descarado

    What will Christian conservatives do? They will not vote for a Muslim.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • seyedibar

      I wasn't aware any muslims had ever bid for the presidency.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • naggingmoose

      Did you mean Morman???

      April 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  10. JonWNC

    They could just vote for the President, who is a Christian... oh, that would be crazy! Instead, they'll vote for the guy who believes Native Americans hopped a boat from Israel, and that we can all be Gods if we can just make it to the top layer of heaven. They'll do this because they have 'values.' Too funny...

    April 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Greg s

      Well Obama sat in a Church every Sunday for 20 years with Jeremiah Wright at the Pulpit, Now if anyone here has ever listened to Jeremiah Wright's Sermons it kinda makes you wonder who Obama really is and what He really believes,
      If we can tolerate Obama we can Tolerate a Mormon.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  11. Johnny Triumph

    The fact that evangelicals base their dislike of Romney purely on the name of his religion is disappointing and shows their ignorance of what Mormons actually believe. It's further disturbing to think that they believe Romney will not stand for traditional families comprised of a man and a woman. I hope, for the sake of our country, that evangelicals will get over their ignorance and choose to back Romney; he's the best hope our country has at the moment.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • docame

      What "moment" are you talking about? Some "moment" inside an alternate Universe where nut jobs rule? I don't think so, dude. Obama will mop the floor with Romney, can't wait to see it all happen, live and on stage!

      Obama 2012!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      April 11, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Greg s

      Man think of the reaction if The Lefts Messiah, Obama, looses

      April 11, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  12. mickflanigan

    I know what they should do: Realize that they are in the extreme and a small minority, and stop trying to set policies in government to suit their extremist views, and forcing their views on others. Government must be secular. People can believe what they want, but stop forcing your ideologies on others.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • jb1963

      right on.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • MrHanson

      Well stop forcing your purposeless view of life and the universe on us. I guess we need to take out the words "endowed by their creator" from the declartion just to appease the athiests. Is not believing that we are nothing but mindless reorganized stardust so bad?

      April 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • docame

      MrHanson, I sorry to hear how ignorant you truly are. Did you do to school? Maybe you were home-schooled? IOn either case, I am sorry. I hope in the next life you come back as a democrat and realize the value of good education. Thanks.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Greg s

      But we Know best, and its so much fun!!!

      April 11, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  13. exCONservtv

    John 13:34 for you conservative "Christians." And keep religion out of politics!

    April 11, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  14. Jim (retired AF colonel)

    "The alternative is something we can't live with" = a black president. The racism of the GOP is just below the surface!

    April 11, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  15. curious

    The republican party is ready to nominate Romney, who believes that Satan was a son of God.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Ting

      It's amazing that this nation will elect anyone that believes in the invisible creator. This is the 21st century.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Lance in TX

      So, let me ask you, If Satan is not a son od God, Where did Satan come from if God created all and we are all His children?

      April 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Jesus

      Read the Book of Mormon! Do you want a Bishop from the Mormon Church running this country?

      April 11, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Greg s

      Satan was gods Favorite, But then Satan started talking Liberal bs about sharing power and down with the 1%, Long live the 99% Next thing you know hes pushing for elections in heaven and out comes the Boot. Satan finds himself out of a Job so he goes Freelance, He may not be God but hes closer then anyone else in the Universe to actually being a God, Well other then the fact God Knows all and sees all and Satan only Knows what he has learned and can only see whats directly in front of him, But still he has wings and hes mighty good lookin so next to any man walking on Earth Hes a GOD. So He makes a Plan, hes going to bring Down Gods Creation, If he cant play then no one gets to play!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  16. Bob

    Hysterical that the GOP are whining that Obama is creating a phony "War on Women" when not more than four months ago we had the GOP and Faux News screaming about the "War on Christmas" to anyone who dared to say "Happy Holidays" and then after that it was the "War on Religion" for not allowing for-profit companies that have "moral objections" to something to disobey a law that every business must follow. So in the GOP's world, the Koch brothers can say "I don't believe in science, so I don't have to pay for no stinking cancer treatment or vaccines for my workers. They should just pray they don't get sick". Give me a break. This "War on Science (and facts and history...)" that the GOP has been waging since the Bush years is what needs to go.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  17. sam

    Since their man is out of the race, I would suggest they stay home and not vote at all.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • jb1963

      We can only hope. I know they are at home praying really hard that God throws them another candidate. He won't he makes them all lose because even God knows that their should be no religion in politics.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Greg s

      O no we cant do that, We are gonna vote and yell and scream about evil men who kill there Children and Men marrying Donkeys...opps I mean other men!! Its what we do!!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  18. Atheism is bad for my kids, cats, and my plants

    Prey.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Dr. T.

      Wow. A key part of your life and you don't even know how to spell it. This atheist will PRAY that at least your kids, cats, and plants get an education!

      April 11, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • closet atheist

      Kids, cats, and plants.... if you fail to indoctrinate them, maybe you can try to impregnate them? That IS how it works in the south, right?

      April 11, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • docame

      I think the other commenters here missed your point. Please spell it out for them.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  19. Common Sense

    Is it possible for them to continue to worship as they please - and to please keep it out of the government? I am guessing they only want religious freedom and representation for their own religious preferences. As for Reverend Ricky, bottom line is if you can't run with the big dogs, stay on the porch. Like it or not, that's politics.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  20. Lee

    @Ken – You got some nerve claiming Atheism is the most destructive force. Why dont you go read a Mayan history book..oh wait...religion destroyed that society and burned every book they had(except for 4 that managed to survive).

    April 11, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • MrHanson

      Mayan history book? Ah Hahahahaha! And your comparing that to Christianity? OMG.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Greg s

      Stone tablets buddy, The Mayans were pretty smart when it came to math, But paper completely eluded them!!!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:21 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.