home
RSS
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. Animenut

    Maybe the truth of their reality will sink in. Most Americans don't buy their medieval, bigoted, mean spirited positions.
    You want to run your lives and those of your family that way, fine. Just keep it to your self. And keep it the hell out of the laws of this country.

    April 10, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  2. CopperTop

    Happy Easter everyone! Jesus is risen! Hope you all have a great day!

    April 10, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Come To The Dark Side! We Have Cookies!

      Elvis is risen too! Happy happy joy joy!

      April 10, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • sam stone

      I guess some people need a savior. Slaves, for example

      April 10, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Aezel

      Yes and Zeus is about to unleash the Kraken! He told me in my dreams this morning!

      April 10, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Come To The Dark Side! We Have Cookies!

      Wow you people are stupid! Everyone knows that the only one who can release the Kraken is Lindsay Lohan. What a moron!

      April 10, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • CopperTop

      sam stone – I do need a savior, and I am a slave of Jesus Christ! That said, there is nothing more freeing than doing the will of the Most High. Peace be with you.

      April 10, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  3. educationfan

    I am astounded that a religion and policy expert at the University of Akron would single out "white evangelicals" as a disappointed sub-group. Is this about religion or is it really about race?

    April 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  4. Come To The Dark Side! We Have Cookies!

    I wonder if the Republican overlords are going to slump and their seats and accept defeat, or are they going to pull a fast one at the convention? I personally would love the back-room-politics Macchiavellian thing – much more interesting.

    If Ron Paul goes it alone on the Libertarian ticket, his massive defeat should be the least humiliating he has ever suffered.

    April 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  5. Brian

    Hmmm, I can think of a place where religious conservatives can go, but it's not where they think they're going...

    April 10, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  6. Dan

    Liberals better learn how to pray if they have any hope at all of getting Obama re-elected.

    April 10, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • reason

      Because it worked out so well for Santorum?

      April 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Animenut

      Most liberals I know pray. They just keep it to themselves.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • sam stone

      Funny, that was the same thing that that Frothy Mix followers were saying when they were having wet dreams of Ricky Boy using the bully pulpit to bring people to Jeebus.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Maggie

      Dan,
      LIberals do pray. Democrats have a big tents with many Christian and family centered people underneath. Christianity is about kindness and being non judgmental. Comments like yours which infer religion is a exclusive of the political right are hurting your cause. Our country was founded on tolerance and freedom of religion. We need to respect one another.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Susan

      Dan
      As a liberal I resent that remark. I am a Chirstian and Jesus is my savior. I pray to God all the time. Your arrogant and hypocritical garbage shows your ignorance, both of the Bible and what being a "Christian" realy means. I can only pray for you.

      April 10, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • sftommy

      Liberals already act with Christian Compassion by supporting politically those who help their fellow man, woman and child. Why any Christian would support GOP policies of greed and their platform of denying basics like medical care is between them and their maker. Ten hail Mary's and a dozen pater nosters, and then go forth and sin no more...

      April 10, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  7. CJA

    If you think Romney is "not conservative enough" now just wait for the general election. He WILL move more to the center. He will have to talk about health are reform and making taxes fair. All thing the ultra right does not want to hear. He will position himself as being just right of Obama

    April 10, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  8. MJ

    Awesome, vote for Romney! I am sure that his Mormonism represents your Evangelical Christian views very well. LOL

    April 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  9. Bozo the Republican

    And another candidate has gone under the wheels of the Republican clown car. What a carnival freak show it has been!

    April 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  10. jj

    I know where I would like for them to go. Flames, pitchforks, and so on.

    April 10, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Certain

      You mean hell? That would not be nice to wish on anybody.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • SciGuy

      I doubt they'd want to go to a place where democrats rule.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  11. reason

    That picture is funny. Why do they have their eyes closed? Maybe the prayer did not work because the guy in the upper right peaked.

    April 10, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  12. Reality

    One more time:------->>>>>>>>>>

    ONLY for the newcomers:

    Why the Christian Right no longer matters in presidential elections:

    Once again, all the conservative votes in the country "ain't" going to help a "pro-life" presidential candidate, i.e Mitt Romney, Newton Leroy Gingrich, Ron Paul or Rick Santorum (exit right), in 2012 as the "Immoral Majority" rules the country and will be doing so for awhile. The "Immoral Majority" you ask?

    The fastest growing USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million "IM" voters in 2012.

    2008 Presidential popular vote results:

    69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM.

    And the irony:

    And all because many women fail to take the Pill once a day or men fail to use a condom even though in most cases these men have them in their pockets. (maybe they should be called the "Stupid Majority"?)

    The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and S-TDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer birth control methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.

    i.e. If the Pill and male condoms were used properly, abortion would not be an issue and Obama would not be president.

    April 10, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Aezel

      And I'll repeat myself....

      What a hilarious and asinine post. Conservatives are the ones that are voting against teaching how to use condoms, birth control, etc in schools. If anyone is responsible for putting more women in the position of needing an abortion it is the right wing that lives in the dark ages and wants to teach abstinence only.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  13. Stopthemadness

    NEWS FLASH ROMNEY OUTED FOR TAX FRAUD!!!!!!!!!

    April 10, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  14. Stopthemadness

    NEWS FLASH REPUBLICANS FLUBBED AGAIN!!!!!!!

    April 10, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  15. reason

    Instead of finding another religious candidate these zeolots should keep their religion out of politics!

    April 10, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  16. Stopthemadness

    THIS JUST IN OBAMA WINS BY LANDSLIDE!!!!!!!

    April 10, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • staneve

      NOT SO FAST ! ! don't count the eggs yet !!!!!

      April 10, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  17. Joshua the Nazarene

    For the religious right there is....? not the heathen romney. Not the adulterer newt......not the athiest paul......

    turns out the ONLY CHristian in the race is....gulp.....OBAMA! Goes to church regularly for the past 20+ years, stable marriage, great dad, works for the poor and downtrodden. Yep. All you santorum Christians have only one option.

    April 10, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Marky Merlot

      LMAO!

      April 10, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • JDinHouston

      Too funny! I never really thought of it that way, but you are right. If you want a strong family man with a strong moral compass, wo also happens to be a Christian, Obama really does set the stage. I know that will freak out the haters, but Romney has made more flip flops in his career than just about any current politician, is a Mormon, and likes to drive long distance trips with his dog strapped to the roof – putting the family dog on the roof isn't exactly a "family first" kinda move to me.
      I'm not pro-Obama, but I'll admit the idea of a rabid evangelical Christian Republican party gaining power in Washington scares the holy heck out of me. Romney is fine, he's a liberal in Republican clothing, it's ilk like Santorum that scare me.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • staneve

      thank you for the information , I'm a born again christian from christian faith family I will not vote for Obama. I choose to vote for Mitt ROMNEY

      April 10, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Paul

      Romney is more Christian than the whole bunch. Unfortunately, the so-called "Christians" don't know or see that because they are religious bigots.

      April 10, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Susan

      Josh,
      You hit the nail on the conservative head! Love It!

      April 10, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  18. carly

    Hopefully they will stay home on election day.

    April 10, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • staneve

      No I will not stay home on election day. I will vote for Mitt Romney. I need a commander in chief not a Pastor or Priest in chief. It's not a Conservative contest. it's Presidential election

      April 10, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  19. John P. Tarver

    Romney is a corporate hatchet man and could not be better qualified to do what our Government needs most.
    Romney/Gingrich in 2012, for Party unity.
    just say no to $10 gasoline

    April 10, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • jimmc

      For $10 gasoline, guess you is in the pocket of big business including the oil companies?

      April 10, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Glibertarian

      "Romney is a corporate hatchet man and could not be better qualified to do what our Government needs most."

      Yeah lay everyone off and ship all their jobs to China, in exchange for more loans that he pockets for his 2016 campaign. The deficit is terrible and nat'l debt is worse, but politicians want to stay in power more than fix the country.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  20. Gerson

    This is the end of the road for white evangelicals in politics. After hundreds of books, millions of sunday school classes, millions of bible studies taught against Mormons now they will have support and vote for a Mormon. They will have to tell their people that being Mormon is ok. Take that, payback from GOD himself. Sorry for them

    April 10, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33
Advertisement
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.