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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. Mark Gale

    I Hopefully all of these Marjoe Gortner holy than now christians will wake up a realize that not all americans are christians which i is why religion does not belong in government. I am jewish in a state that has every religious group is represented all of us are free to worship our religion without any problems. America is not Nazi Germany. Wake up you narrow minded fools freedom means being able to speak and worship without fear.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  2. b4bigbang

    8.2 and 8.6 earthquakes! Read the Gospels, we are in the end times!

    April 11, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Theism is not healthy for your sanity and other reasonable things

      LOL, you go outside and wait for Jesus, let us all know how that works out for you.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      People have been saying that for thousands of years. I notice that we are still here. Paranoia is a lovely tool to attempt to control the masses though.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • sam stone

      ah.....the end times.....perhaps you could work on your forecasting skills

      April 11, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Guffaw. Yeah, because earthquakes have NEVER before happened in the history of the universe. /sarcasm

      April 11, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • TR6

      christians have been babeling that "we are in the end of times" for over 2000 years and it hasn't happened yet. When are they going to figure out its not ever going to happen. Although it's been quite a money maker, just look at Howard Camping

      April 12, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  3. Tyler

    About the only thing Evangelicals hate more than a Mormon is the idea of having Barack Obama as our president for four more years. I think it's funny that they're going to have to choose. 🙂

    April 11, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  4. Emperor Vadik, CA

    Well, if Romney wins, then Religious Conservatives lose worse, because they won't have their own candidate until 2020...

    ...if Obama wins, then Santorum will get the Republican nomination in 2016 (as has every other Republican runner-up since the 1960's...

    April 11, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  5. Tony

    Should we also be concerned about what people who believe in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus think. Since religious conservatives have a belief system rooted in myth and fairy stories, their decision-making processes are obviously compromised.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • QS

      I believe politics are cartoons for adults....and "god" is Santa for adults. 😉

      April 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  6. Nii

    I don't mind anti-discrimination laws. If however we must open the marriage flood gates I say impotent rights first. OH EVEN IF U LOVE THEM AND WANT TO SPEND THE REST OF YOUR LIFE WITH THEM IT IS NOT MARRIAGE IF THE GOVT FINDS OUT. Impotents stand up for ur rights.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  7. kaliga

    Who cares, hopefully stay home!

    April 11, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  8. moderate joe

    After hearing a southern Baptist preacher rail agianst morman cults and Obama in a message earlier in the year-

    wow- I bet he's torn right now......

    April 11, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  9. leo costa

    the white evangelical first problem is not the Obama police; it is his skin color. GOP will opposed they own police if the BLACK president agree with them.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  10. Theism is not healthy for your sanity and other reasonable things

    The religious right is going to be the death of the GOP, and rightly so. Somewhere along the line the party that was supposed to be about smaller government, lower taxes and state's rights got hijacked by Bible thumpers with a social agenda. Now that same party that was for small government wants a government so small it can crawl up a woman's reproductive organs to defend a zygote. This fiscal conservative won't ever be voting Republican again as long as that party is run from the pulpit.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • leo costa

      thank you...you say it properly. I agree

      April 11, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • chubby rain

      well said

      April 11, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • sam stone

      agreed totally

      April 11, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  11. GOPSKUM

    I guess the religious conservatives will have to find someone else to tell them what to do. They certainly don't plan on thinking for themselves. Can you even picture them trying?

    April 11, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  12. leonid7

    It's funny. When the Family Research Council refers to him as pro-marriage and pro-freedom, they are actually describing things he's completey against.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Ken78

      Exactly correct.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  13. FromUpThere

    I consider myself conservative/moderate. I know exactly how I'll proceed. I'll stick with Obama over any other alternative.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Ken78

      I think a lot of social conservatives will do that. I seriously considered it myself. The GOP really shot itself in the foot this time.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • closet atheist

      Ken, you retard... the republicans shot themselves in the foot when they made the primaries about religion and not the economy. Now we're stuck with Obama, thanks to you fundamental idiots.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  14. ryan

    Clearly they need to run Tim Tebow as a third party candidate, oh wait he's to young... Clearly they need to run Kirk Cameron as a third party candidate.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Theism is not healthy for your sanity and other reasonable things

      President Kirk Cameron – now that's a real atheist's nightmare, not that silly banana stuff Kirk and Ray Comfort prattle on about.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • QS

      Either would be just as bad I think. Plus, what if Tebow sucked as much as a President as he does as a QB!? 🙂

      April 11, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Theism is not healthy for your sanity and other reasonable things

      LOL, President Tebow passes 46.5% of his budget.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  15. brad

    god told ricky to run but ricky failed miserably. maybe god was just looking for a laugh.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Starrface

      Good one. Ricky has been making me laugh for months now!!!!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • nookster

      God told Bachmann too. If he exist he must have a real sense of humor.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  16. Starrface

    Who cares what these conservative religious nuts do. Maybe they should start looking at who will be the best person for the job and stop basing their self centered religious goofy life solely on religious issues. Religion should have nothing to do with politics.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • brad

      yeah tell those taliban, wait, you are talking about the taliban right?

      April 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  17. Bible Clown©

    So the Evangelicals are going to back a Mormon to defeat an Evangelical? Big win for the Mormons! A lot of people will be joining the LDS this next year.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • MASTRODAMUS

      booo.....

      April 11, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      I'm serious. People love a winner, and they change churches every day. Wait and see; advertising makes a big difference.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  18. pjbloggy

    What makes you think ANY of you are Americans? You do NOT respect the Laws of the Land; you want to impose you own religious beliefs on EVERY one else; you cheat, lie, steal and break ALL the Commandments (but it's OKAY when YOU do it) and are as extremist and unstable as the Taliban. Why don't ALL the White Trash Jesus Lickers go find a little Nation of your own where women are barefoot and preggers; you have ALL the guns you want and people can be hanged for...well, almost anything. You could call it Jesus-licky-licky-licky-stan and your Emperor could Be Richard the Sheep Humpe...er, FIrst.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • brad

      well put

      April 11, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • AMereObserver

      I vote we give them Arizona. =)

      April 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • MASTRODAMUS

      Not sure why you would say something like that. I consider myself a Christian and feel everyone has the right to believe what they want to believe. I'm a firm believer in separation of church and state and I'm glad Santorum dropped out because he was a threat to that. It sounds to me like you are just a hater. Lol. Your post is actually pretty lame if you ask me.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      Pretty harsh man, but you are essentially correct about Bible-wavers being the first to cheat and steal, plus they like to make these statements like "All Democrats are evil" that they know can't possibly be correct. Do they intend to impress God with these falsehoods? I heard He hated liars. Come to think of it, your post is just as bad; plenty of "trailer trash" people are better than you are in many ways.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • noradicals99

      a little of a blanket statement (not far off though) on evangelicals, but agree with the core of your statement

      April 11, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  19. Bible Clown©

    The stock market is jumping at the news that Romney will lose to Obama. This means no surprises and no big changes, just steady growth. Time to make a fortune!

    April 11, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  20. Nii

    Yep impotent men can have their marriage annulled by their brides for failure to consummate it by sleeping with them. Those whose marriages are already consummated can be sued for witholding conjugal rights and divorced.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      So what?

      Who cares?

      April 11, 2012 at 7:06 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.