I type this post mere hours before the first set of polls close on election day, and I must admit that I’m as nostalgic as I am anxious. Nancy and I were discussing our electoral journey last night, and we think we might number among the first half-dozen or so volunteers for the Mitt effort – dating back to a memorable phone call two days after George Bush won re-election. Seven years ago this Fall, I met with Mitt for the first time to explain that – yes – he could win the evangelical vote. Tonight, while we don’t yet know the outcome, we do know that evangelicals will turn out for this Mormon from Massachusetts in overwhelming numbers. It will be a deeply gratifying moment.
It’s hard to describe the amount of effort since those first calls and meetings — working until it hurt; giving until it hurt; and through it all doing so in the company of great friends, old and new.
The memories come flooding back . . .
-Of speaking to a living room-full of Tennessee evangelicals (fundamentalists, really) in February 2006 to convince them to give up a weekend to go to Memphis to vote in the first straw poll of last election cycle for “Matt Romney? Who’s Matt Romney?” and following up with the now-familiar bio of a man of integrity who knows how to turn things around;
-Of taking two young kids with pink eye to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference and watching the hand out buttons while our fledgling Evangelicals for Mitt crew organized a motley strike force of Memphis Mormons, Jackson Baptists, and Nashville Church of Christers to shock the political world (and Mitt!) with a second place finish;
-Of countless conversations with “I ain’t gonna vote for a Mormon” southern evangelicals — all of whom ended up enthusiastically supporting Mitt;
-Of Nancy and I giving up our last weekend before my Iraq deployment to win the Values Voter 2007 straw poll — only to see Nancy thrown out of the conference and physically confronted by irate Huckabee supporters;
-Of getting a gracious and kind gift and note from Mitt just before I left for Iraq and writing him a thank you note at 4:00 a.m. on the morning I left for war — expressing a hope that I would soon salute him as my commander-in-chief;
-Of the moment when Nancy messaged me in Iraq that Mitt had withdrawn from the race but knowing in my heart that the story was not over;
-Of Mitt and Ann reaching out to Nancy during the deployment, and Nancy enjoying a marvelous weekend with them in their Utah home;
-Of Nancy reporting that she lied to Romneys by telling him that she could ski (just so she could keep hanging out) and then almost injured Mitt on the slopes by tackling him out during an uncontrolled free fall;
-Of saddling up once again in 2010 and journeying down to New Orleans for yet another straw poll – the first of the 2012 season – but with many, many more Evangelicals for Mitt than we had in 2006;
-Of 1,000 No Apology books, 2,000 “We need a president who won’t break the bank” piggy banks, hundreds of piggy bank t-shirts, and some very clever “Burma Shave” signs (signs still in our garage);
-Of beating Ron Paul by one vote as the Ron Paul revolution rained profanities upon us;
-Of herculean efforts from dear friends to finance the effort and all their wisdom and moral guidance during times good and bad;
-Of a Time hit piece against Nancy, me and our Evangelical for Mitt friends;
-Of the hundreds of vile and vicious comments and hateful interactions that we endured during two primary contests — including efforts to destroy our careers and even physically intimidate Nancy, me, and even our children;
-Of the thousands more blessed and life-giving conversations with new Mormon friends as God orchestrated our efforts in surprising ways to build bridges of friendship, reconciliation, and understanding between evangelical and LDS;
-Of the dark days after South Carolina;
-Of the dark days after Colorado, Missouri, and Minnesota;
-Of the marvelous day when we gathered in Tampa to see a nomination that so many told us would never happen and to hear the thunderous applause of a conservative movement that pundits said would never unite;
-Of poll-watching, number-crunching, blogging, tweeting, and facebooking;
But most of all . . .
-Of two people, Mitt and Ann Romney, who took on an immense, years-long burden out of love this great nation, carried that burden with grace, integrity, and dignity, and have — at all times — made us proud to know them, support them, and do whatever we could — whether they be things great or small — to help them win.
Today’s outcome is — as it has always been — in God’s hands. On this fateful day I’m reminded of the words used by many of our nation’s leaders and founders — going back first, I believe, to the abolitionist John Jay: Duty is ours; consequences are God’s.
We have done our duty. Let’s see what God has in store.