The EFM Feature

Salt Lake Tribune
Thomas Burr
October 3, 2006
WASHINGTON–There are the Texans for Mitt, the Tennesseeans for Mitt, the Iowans for Mitt. Then there are the Evangelicals for Mitt, the Catholics for Mitt and the Law Students for Mitt.
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney isn’t a declared candidate for president yet, but already several Web logs, or blogs, are sprouting up to promote the Republican for the White House in 2008.
Like the grass-roots efforts of old, this is the newfound Web-roots.
About 20 states now have their own Web sites with fans marketing Romney as the best choice to succeed President Bush. And that’s in addition to other sites popping up with other groups, such as Women for Romney, Students for Romney and even “My Man Mitt,” which is jumping the gun to ask readers to vote on who would make a great vice president for Romney.
“The Internet’s such a powerful force in politics now that I think we could do some good things to get his name out,” says Nathan Burd, who runs AmericansforMitt.com and is one of the founders of the movement to host sites in every state.
The blogs–the founders of which all say they are independent of the campaign–focus on a variety of issues, with some rounding up statements the governor has made about taxes, abortion or terrorism. Others post news clippings about Romney and commentary about his positions or the coverage he’s getting.
And EvangelicalsforMitt.com is tackling what is expected to be Romney’s largest hurdle to the presidency: his Mormon religion.
Many evangelical groups consider Mormons to be cultists, a point the Evangelicals for Mitt site is hoping to counter by pointing out how Romney is the “best candidate for people of faith,” according to founder Charles Mitchell.
“A lot of people think that the fact that he’s a Mormon is going to be a huge problem, if not a deal-breaker for Evangelicals, who are a big part of the Republican base,” Mitchell says. “That shouldn’t be the case. . . . The 2008 election is for president, not for pastor.”
Mitchell posted an item recently pointing out that the Bible shows that God sometimes works through those who may not be aligned perfectly with beliefs but in the end are the best to handle the role. It’s a point that Romney will have to stress in his potential bid.
“Examining [the Bible's Book of] Ezra shows that the idea that God can only work through an orthodox leader is clearly not biblical,” Mitchell wrote. “Our Lord worked through Cyrus and his successors; certainly He could work through a President Romney, too. And should there be a President Romney, it will only be because He allowed it to happen.”
Mitchell says the feedback on the site has been mixed, but it’s not showing that “Joe Evangelical out there is saying that we’re evil and have joined up with the dark side. There’s some criticism, there’s also some positive feedback. Some say, ‘I’ll think about it.’ Some say, ‘I’ll take this seriously.’ At this stage of the game, that’s fine.”
Leonard Steinhorn, an associate professor of communication at American University in Washington, says blogs are already playing a significant role in elections and are the new form of individual political advocacy.
“If people feel that they can promote something, it doesn’t take much money to create and write a blog,” says Steinhorn, who taught a class last semester that included researching political blogs.
However, Steinhorn cautions that often it’s unclear who is behind blogs and whether their information is accurate. Additionally, he says, just because there are several blogs promoting a candidate, “it doesn’t mean that there’s a massive groundswell of support.”
All of the bloggers interviewed for this story say they are completely independent from the Romney camp, which has its own Web site but not a blog.
Some of the sites, however, did come from an original Yahoo! Group, where many of the bloggers got to know each other and then spread out to form blogs in their home states. Still, the bloggers insist they aren’t collaborating, other than linking to each other and pushing to get blogs from each state.
“We don’t have a template. We don’t have a standard form. We don’t share content. Everyone’s done this on their own,” says Burd. “It’s as grass-roots as you can be.”
Some of the bloggers, obviously, come from the same faith as Romney, a resource that the governor may be able to tap if he decides to run.
Ann Marie Curling, who runs ElectRomneyIn2008.com, is Mormon but says Romney’s religious belief is only about “30 percent” of the reason she’s backing Romney. The major reason is his fiscal responsibility, she says.
Curling, who also runs Women for Romney, started her blog about 17 months ago, she says, mainly because as a mother and business owner, “I just felt that I needed to get politically active earlier than I have in the past,” and she wanted to boost exposure of Romney. There’s also a Spanish-language version of her site.
Utahns for Mitt is run by Kelly Hadfield, of Logan, who admits to “very amateur” Web skills, but nonetheless wanted to put a “Utah ring” to news about Romney.
“I don’t have high expectations, but I figured it’s something I can do to participate,” Hadfield says.
Nancy French, who colored part of her Tennesseeans for Mitt with Volunteer orange, says all the bloggers are “big Mitt fans” and are just doing what they can to attract fans.
“Everyone just feels enthusiastic about Mitt and his chances,” says French, the author of the newly released A Red State of Mind.
“The fact that the people are so enthusiastic and it’s purely grass-roots is truly amazing.”

About Charles Mitchell

EFM's resident Yankee, Charles Mitchell, works in the non-profit arena in his native Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Charissa, live near the state capital of Harrisburg with their daughter, Adeline, and are members of a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

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