July 20, 2011
Co-Founder of Evangelicals for Mitt Wrote Bristol Palin's Memoir
Few 20-year-olds write memoirs. Fewer still see their books on The New York Times bestsellers list. But Bristol Palin has turned her three years in the national spotlight into a publishing success. Like many public figures, Palin employed the help of a professional writer, in this case Nancy French, a writer and activist who co-founded Evangelicals for Mitt (EFM) in 2005. Today, French and EFM continue to campaign for Mitt Romney among evangelicals, many of whom are wary of supporting a Mormon candidate.
Palin told Christianity Today that French's backing of Mitt Romney was not a problem, even if Palin's mother, Sarah, ran for president, too. "Regardless of who she votes for politically or anything like that we're still going to be really close," Palin said.
French is no stranger to memoir writing. She has two of her own. Her latest, released less than two weeks after the Palin's Not Afraid of Life, is Home and Away, written with her husband about his decision to enlist. Nor is this her first co-authored memoir about someone in the political spotlight: In 2007, she was hired to help Ann Romney write her memoir on life in the Romney family. That project remains an as-yet unpublished manuscript.
French started campaigning for Romney's first try at the GOP nomination through EFM. French, her husband (who is senior legal counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund), and others formed EFM. Their first target was the 2006 Southern Republican Leadership Conference. The SRLC is a gathering for Bible-belt conservatives, just the type of social conservatives who look sideways at Romney because of his religion and his record as Massachusetts governor. Supporters sported t-shirts that read "Yankee Governor, Southern Values." EFM helped Romney win second place behind Sen. Bill Frist (who was the home-state favorite).
After the SRLC straw poll, French and other founders of EFM were named as vice-chairs of the Romney campaign's National Faith and Values Steering Committee. Later, French was hired by the Romney campaign to help it get on the ballot in Tennessee (French's home state).
Today, EFM remains a small but effective group. It describes itself as a "first and foremost, group of friends." On Facebook, it has around 900 supporters (compared to over one million for the main Romney page). Last year, Romney again won the SRLC presidential straw poll even though Romney skipped the event.
That support could be traced directly back to the work of EFM. Like most straw polls, voting is not free. Voting is open to attendees only, who pay at least $119 to go to the conference. According to The Washington Post, EFM gave away 200 tickets for free to Romney supporters. As a cosponsor of the event, EFM also gave out merchandise and hung banners in the exhibit hall. The time, effort, and over $23,000 in tickets paid off. Even though Romney skipped the conference, he won the straw poll by one vote over Rand Paul. It was a win that The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fox News, and other media took as a sign of Romney's possible support among southern conservatives.