Writers Nancy and David French are longtime vocal Mitt Romney supporters, co-founders of the group Evangelicals for Mitt. In a new e-book they make the case for Why Evangelicals Should Support Mitt Romney (And Feel Good about It!); they talk about their case — and why anyone might want to listen to it — here:
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Why the “Feel Good About It!”? Haven’t you heard no one is excited about Mitt Romney.
NANCY FRENCH: As you can see from recent polling, now that the voting has started and more people are paying attention, Mitt is doing very well. Excitement is building, but we also know that we need to “close the deal” with conservatives who might be skeptical or who’ve heard a tremendous amount of misinformation about Mitt. Quite a few voters are giving him a first real look. Here’s the bottom line: We live in an era of debt downgrades, explosive deficit spending, and persistent joblessness. Conservatives should be excited about a candidate who has a record of securing debt upgrades (in Massachusetts), balancing budgets and creating surpluses (for the Olympics and in Massachusetts), starting businesses, and creating jobs.
LOPEZ: When and why did you start Evangelicals for Mitt?
DAVID FRENCH: After spending years merely watching — and talking about — presidential politics, we decided last cycle that we wanted to get more actively involved. We started Evangelicals for Mitt in 2006 to make the case for Governor Romney to a vital conservative constituency. Simply put, we think he’s the right person at the right time. We need an economic turnaround. Since 2006, our work has expanded in interesting ways, and we’ve been privileged to help bridge some unnecessary gaps between Mormon, evangelical, and Catholic voters.
LOPEZ: Aren’t you too close to and in the tank for Romney to be objective?
DAVID: We’re not objective, but we strive for intellectual honesty and charity in our arguments. We admire some of Mitt’s competitors. (Rick Santorum’s linkage of family status and poverty, for example, is vital to the national debate.) Though we’re unapologetic Romney advocates, our arguments still have to stand and fall on their own merits. In the book, we make specific, factual arguments based on his record in business, in the Olympics, and in public office. But we also make subjective arguments, based on our personal experiences with Mitt and Ann.
LOPEZ: Has his nomination this time around at any point felt inevitable to you?
NANCY: Never. After all, virtually every pundit in America wrote off John McCain during the last primary cycle, but he secured the Republican nomination months before Barack Obama finally finished his primary contest. Anything can happen in politics. Having said that, he’s in a better position than any candidate in this astonishingly volatile race.
LOPEZ: Why are you so adamant about identifying as evangelicals supporting Romney?
NANCY: We exist to make one simple point: Not only can evangelicals support Mitt, he is the best candidate for people of faith. Why? Because he’ll most effectively advance the core cultural, political, and economic values of the evangelical community. Evangelicals are a critical component of the GOP voting base, and we wanted to speak directly to them.
DAVID: Is there a lot of anti-Mormonism out there among the GOP base you’ve encountered?
FRENCH: There’s not a lot, but the anti-Mormon sentiment that exists can be quite loud and hostile. Fortunately, the more they talk, the more they discredit themselves. As a general matter, the GOP base is quite experienced with secular leftist hostility to religion and thus shuns those few people who are actively anti-Mormon. Conservatives are unified around common values, not common theology.
LOPEZ: Will evangelicals stay home to any significant degree if Romney is the Republican nominee?
DAVID: No. Evangelicals have the same concerns of most Americans. Yes, we’re pro-life –and proudly so. But we also have to pay mortgages, make payroll, or find work. Evangelical conservatives aren’t simply one-dimensional social conservatives, which is why we spent considerable time in the book describing Mitt’s record of turning around failing companies and rescuing floundering economies. (At the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, we handed out piggy banks which read, “The Economy is a Moral Issue.”)
LOPEZ: Does it matter if Romney is Christian or not?
NANCY: Mitt’s character, competence, and ideas matter greatly. He has an unbroken record of faithful and honorable service in his public (and private) life. Those who require a political leader to adhere to their particular denomination are more tribalist than anything else. Our last two Baptist presidents were Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Religious identification is not a proxy for virtue — or ability.
LOPEZ: Did you find it disappointing that some evangelical leaders very prominently went Santorum this weekend?
DAVID: Yes, for a couple of reasons. First, we’re disturbed so many of them wished to support Newt, who has a checkered ethical past and uses leftist class warfare rhetoric to undermine free enterprise. Though we understand why they chose Santorum — a tremendous champion of the unborn — Mitt’s a better choice. He’s strong on life, better on the economy, better on entitlement reform, better on foreign policy.
LOPEZ: Is it hard being the defender of the flip-flop candidate?
NANCY: It’s not hard to defend someone who’s moved to our side of the argument on abortion. It’s not hard to defend a pro-life record that earned Mitt a political leadership award from Massachusetts Citizens for Life. It’s not hard to defend his economic record as governor or his record in the private sector and the Olympics. Once you move past the loaded and unfair “flip-flop” phrase and discover people’s actual objections, the conversation is typically easy.
LOPEZ: You say you’re pro-life but you support the five-dollar abortion candidate who boosted Planned Parenthood while in office?
NANCY: We do more than just talk the talk. David and a couple of friends started Harvard Law School’s sole pro-life club in 1992. (The Society for Law, Life, and Religion is still in existence to this day.) David works for a pro-life legal organization and was a keynote speaker at the Students for Life annual convention in 2010 and 2011. Plus, our pro-life convictions led us to grow our family through adoption.
In other words, this is a core issue for us. Mitt took on a very hostile pro-abortion culture in Massachusetts and did all he could reasonably do. A governor can’t overrule the state supreme court (which mandated taxpayer funding of abortions in Massachusetts), but he can wield the veto pen and use the bully pulpit. Mitt vetoed expanded access to the morning-after pill, he vetoed an expansive stem cell research bill, and he made the case for life within Massachusetts. He’s made a specific pro-life pledge that would make him our nation’s greatest pro-life president. NARAL is trying to stop him, and the pro-life movement will embrace him. If we weren’t completely convinced that Mitt Romney is pro-life, we wouldn’t be “evangelicals for Mitt.”
LOPEZ: Is that last one the most frequently raised issue from the Right?
DAVID: Not really. Politics is downstream from most Americans’ lives, so many people don’t know about these candidates’ positions. Most are are only now beginning to pay attention, so our book offers a quick education.
LOPEZ: And what about those marriage licenses he didn’t have to have issued?
NANCY: Oh my. The very idea that Mitt could have stopped gay marriage in Massachusetts by refusing to issue marriage licenses is sheer legal quackery. It’s like blaming the fireman for showing up at the inferno. David (who is a Constitutional attorney) deals with the issue thoroughly in the book, but here’s the bottom line. Mitt did all he lawfully could do to stop judicial imposition of same-sex marriage: he fought for a constitutional amendment properly defining marriage and went so far as to file suit to force the state legislature to vote on the state’s marriage amendment.
LOPEZ: Do conservatives who worry Romneycare and past positions will prevent a clear contrast with Obama in the general election have a legitimate concern?
NANCY: No. The difference between Romney and Obama will be as clear as the difference between an iPhone and the phone on top of Eddie Albert’s telephone poll. As the Wall Street Journal recently said, Mitt’s brand of capitalism represents the “dynamic capitalism” of free enterprise and entrepreneurial risk-taking. By contrast, Barack Obama’s European model is “dinosaur capitalism.” To take just one example, Mitt’s brand of capitalism gave his investors 88 percent returns. Obama has invested billions through government-directed crony capitalism and taxpayers stand to lose most (if not all) of their investment.
DAVID: The difference between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama is the difference between an opportunity society and an entitlement society – between an American model of growth and liberty and a European model of managed decline. Additionally, Obama will be doubling down on Obamacare, while Romney will be trying to repeal it. In fact, Mitt’s health care record (as we argue in the book) can be a real advantage in the general election. He knows the issue, has lived the battles, and can explain better than anyone why a one-size-fits-all national model can’t work in a large and diverse country.
LOPEZ: Is it a problem that he has all those sons and none of them has served in the military?
NANCY: The Romney sons are like their father: men of integrity who love their country. The vast majority of young men don’t serve in the military. We wish more would, but we can’t possibly make that decision for anyone else. (Indeed, David wishes he’d joined much earlier in life rather than waiting until his mid-thirties to enlist). Rather than lament those who haven’t served, we’d rather appreciate those who have.
LOPEZ: What is Romney’s core, so far as you can tell?
DAVID: It’s not all that complicated: Mitt loves Jesus Christ, his family, and his country. He’s a conservative with a fundamentally optimistic view about America’s future and a proper perspective on America’s unique past.
LOPEZ: What kind of First Lady would Ann Romney be?
NANCY: Okay, we’re definitely biased when it comes to Ann. I had the privilege of working with her last campaign cycle and got to know her quite well. I learned a great deal from her, especially some of her valuable insights about raising children in the midst of a phenomenally fast-paced life. Ann is a strong, gracious, smart woman who will be an honorable and inspirational First Lady.
LOPEZ: What’s new in the e-book and why should conservatives care?
DAVID: In 2005, Nancy was adamantly opposed to supporting a Mormon for president. In fact, she said, “I will never vote for Mitt Romney.” This book traces her journey through the issues and even through the campaign. It also reveals the personal side of Mitt and Ann Romney, telling stories from our interactions that reveal their character. This is not a dry political tome but instead part memoir, part argument.
Why should conservatives care? Because we’ve long sought a leader who can artfully — and persuasively – advocate for our positions on life, marriage, and the economy and have the competence and character to deliver on his promises. Finally, we have a candidate who can do just that. This book offers a one-stop overview of Gov. Romney — the man and the leader.
Plus, when conservatives read the book, they’ll be happy to discover that our next president is one of them.