Editors’ Note:  Yesterday we ran a cover story about Mitch Davis’s new movie he shot in Israel.  If you didn’t read it, you can click here.  Today we continue our questions to Mitch about his passion to use the media to help get Mitt Romney into the White House in 2008.  Come on, could a Mormon really become the President of the United States?

MERIDIAN:  We left off yesterday with you introducing your next project, a documentary called Could a Mormon be President, and a political organization called www.RunMittRun.org.  What’s this all about?

MITCH:  In one sense it’s about what I said earlier:  Putting a human face on Mormonism and stepping out of the backyard, onto the world stage.  But I think that’s just a byproduct of something much larger, which is electing the next leader of the free world as we approach one of the most perilous times in our planet’s history. 

MERIDIAN: How could electing Mitt help put a human face on Mormonism?

MITCH:  How could it not?  It’s one of the most visible jobs in the world!  Having a Mormon in that office would be like having the Olympics in Salt Lake City every day for four years in a row – eight years if he runs for reelection!

MERIDIAN:  Couldn’t that be a negative thing for the Church?  All that publicity?

MITCH:  It is hard for me to imagine anything about a Mitt Romney presidency that could be negative for the Church.  I cannot think of a more capable, flawless representative of our faith than Mitt Romney and his beautiful family.  Have you seen pictures of those people?  Have you seen the words pundits use to describe Mitt?  He is “Matinee Mitt,” “The Holy Cow Candidate,” “The Mighty Mitt Romney.” 

A Mitt Romney presidency would take our Church places it might not otherwise ever go in terms of world perception.  And it will be another hundred years before we get a chance like this to put someone like Mitt in the White House.

MERIDIAN:  Why do you say that?

MITCH:  It’s a wide open field.  Cheney isn’t running.  The Republicans have no clear leader.  And the Democrats’ clear leader is unelectable if she has a legitimate opponent.

MERIDIAN:  So you really think Mitt can get elected?

MITCH:  Absolutely Mitt can get elected!  It all boils down to peoples’ perceptions of Mormonism.  Most of the pundits agree that if Mitt can overcome the negative perception of Mormonism in the United States, he has a good shot at getting elected.  And I think Mitt has proven he doesn’t even need a good shot.  I think if we can get Mitt a fair shot, he will be our next president.

MERIDIAN:  You say “we.”  What can “we” do to get Mitt a fair shot?

MITCH:  We can staff and fund his campaign organization when and if he declares his candidacy, and we can staff and fund a substantial independent organization that will buttress his campaign’s effort.  It all boils down to human resources and financial resources. 

On the day Mitt declares his candidacy, if he can announce a huge financial war chest, a vast network of foot soldiers, and a well-funded independent expenditure organization designed to support him, he will overnight go from dark horse to white knight.  The RNC will fall all over itself finding a way to minimize “the religion thing,” and many of Mitt’s would-be competitors will simply run away.  That will be a great day for America, because I don’t see the Republican or Democratic party mustering any candidates whose leadership qualities come anywhere close to Mitt’s leadership qualities.  These are serious times.  We need a serious leader, regardless of what brand of religion he happens to espouse.

MERIDIAN:  So www.RunMittRun.org is not actually a part of Mitt Romney’s campaign?

MITCH:  Mitt Romney has not yet declared his candidacy for 2008, so he has no actual campaign.  He has set up a PAC called “The Commonwealth PAC” to pave the way for his potential run.  We are what is called a “draft” organization, meaning that we are raising awareness of Mitt in an effort to persuade him to run for office.  We are seeking to raise tens of millions of dollars to draft Mitt.  In the event he declares, we will continue to support his run all the way to the White House.

MERIDIAN:  Is Mitt aware of your efforts?  Is he supportive?

MITCH:  There have been enough articles written about our effort that I am confident Mitt is aware of us.  Because we are an independent organization, however, neither he nor his campaign can contact us directly to express their approval or disapproval, nor to coordinate our efforts in any way. 

The only thing I can say is that it is hard to imagine that Mitt or his advisors would feel badly about someone stepping forward to say he is going to raise tens of millions of dollars to support his candidacy. 

MERIDIAN:  Do you have any experience in politics?

MITCH:  I have a lot of experience in media and fundraising, and I have hired some very savvy strategists and pollsters to guide my efforts.  My role will be to spearhead fund-raising and to oversee the development of our media campaigns.

MERIDIAN:  Tell us about the media campaign.

MITCH:  Right now the single largest impediment to Mitt’s election seems to be a widespread, negative impression of Mormonism.  35% of those polled nationwide by The Los Angeles Times said they could not vote for a Mormon for president.  We conducted our own poll in South Carolina and got a 33% negative response to that same question. 

We then asked South Carolinians why they felt so negatively about Mormonism.  We didn’t have to go very far:  44% of them believe Mormons still practice polygamy, 50% believe we worship Joseph Smith, 27% think we don’t believe in the Bible, and 25% believe we are not Christian – with another 50% undecided on the topic.

On their face, those are very disappointing numbers.  But I think they are actually good news for Mitt.  They tell us that the basis of anti-Mormonism is ignorance rather than simple bigotry, and we can address ignorance. 

MERIDIAN:  How?

MITCH:  We are going to produce a series of television ads that show who Mormons really are and why nobody should be afraid to elect one as President of the United States.  Depending on funding, we will run billboards and newspaper ads as well.  We just have to get rid of this widespread ignorance that breeds widespread fear.

MERIDIAN:  Is it really possible for a grassroots organization to have that much impact on a national election?

MITCH:  Absolutely!  We modeled our organization after two groups:  The highly conservative, “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” and the ultra-liberal, “MoveOn.org.”  Both have been extremely effective in having major impact on major elections the last few years.

For example, the Swift Boat group ran ads that are widely credited with derailing John Kerry’s run for president in 2004 and handing the election to George Bush.  Their efforts were controversial, but Bush could wash his hands of any controversy because the Swift Boat guys were acting independent of his campaign. 

So, yes, independent organizations like ours can be extremely effective in major campaigns.  I think we have a major role to play.  It is just a matter of how clever our ads are and how much money we have to spend running them.

MERIDIAN:  And how are you doing?

MITCH:  We have only been around for three weeks.  Over 800 articles have been written about us, including two features in The Boston Globe and one in The Washington Times (and if you decide, why we’ll even be a cover on Meridian Magazine!).  Donations are starting to come in by mail and over the internet.  I think we’re off to a good start.

MERIDIAN:  Why are you so passionate about this?

MITCH:  Senator Smoot faced this same issue eighty years ago.  Senator Hatch faced it four years ago.  I don’t want to be sitting around having this same conversation a hundred years from now. 

We have before us the best opportunity we could possibly imagine to address this issue once and for all.  We just have to lock arms with Mitt and his family and make a small portion of the sacrifice they are signing up to make. 

MERIDIAN:  Specifically, what can people do?

MITCH:  Until and unless Mitt formally declares his candidacy, no one can do much other than plan to make campaign donations at the proper time.  I hope everyone will do that.  In the meantime, they can get involved in our draft organization by logging on to www.RunMittRun.org and emailing our site to hundreds of their non-LDS friends and colleagues.  We need to start a nationwide groundswell of support for Mitt Romney now.

MERIDIAN:  And you need donations?

MITCH:  Yes.  We are gearing up to produce our first television commercials, but it doesn’t matter how cool those commercials are if we don’t have the money to buy air time.  Every dollars helps.  Every million dollars helps even more.

MERIDIAN:  Can you give us a sneak preview of what the commercials will contain?

MITCH:  Let’s just say there are a lot of successful Mormons out there whose religion has not stopped them from stepping onto the world stage and performing at the highest level; athletes, musicians, business leaders.

Could you imagine anyone saying with a straight face:  “A Mormon could never be a quarterback” or “A Mormon could never run a hotel chain” or “A Mormon could never be Senate Minority Leader.”

MERIDIAN:  Wait a minute!  You’re going to use Harry Reid (a Democrat) to campaign for Mitt Romney (a Republican)?!

MITCH:  We’re going to use every arrow we have in our quiver, and we have quite a few.

MERIDIAN:  Any landmines you need to avoid?

MITCH:  Our biggest concern will be finding a way to address the issue of anti-Mormonism without fanning those same flames.  The last thing any Evangelical Christians want is to feel that by voting for Mitt Romney, they are voting for or promoting Mormonism.

MERIDIAN:  Aren’t they?

MITCH:  No.  They are voting for the best candidate to run for the office of president in a long, long time, and he just happens to be a Mormon.  They are voting against ignorance and bigotry.  They are voting for Article Six of the Constitution that prohibits a religious test “to any office or public trust under the United States.”  They are voting for a man who is clean and smart and sober and chaste.  They are voting for someone whose values mirror their own, never mind doctrinal quibbles.

MERIDIAN:  Why are Evangelical Christians so key to this election?

MITCH:  Because they wield tremendous influence in the Republican Party, and throughout the South. 

MERIDIAN:  Any bright signs?

MITCH:  Jerry Falwell just stated that he wouldn’t have a problem voting for Mitt Romney, and Christian Broadcast News did a positive piece on him three or four weeks ago.  You can find links to all of this stuff on our site.

MERIDIAN:  www.RunMittRun.org?

MITCH:  Don’t leave home without it.