By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
Tampa, Florida (CNN) – The task of selling a Mormon presidential candidate to evangelical America has fallen to a public relations man who’s not even getting paid for what may be the toughest sales job of his career.
For six years, Mark DeMoss has served as Mitt Romney’s unofficial evangelical ambassador, making the case that born-again Christians should help elect the first Mormon to the White House.
It has often been a lonely job.
During this year’s primaries, DeMoss found himself addressing audiences of evangelical leaders in which nearly everyone was rooting for another candidate: Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry – anybody but Romney.
“It would have been tough for anyone other than Mark,” says Richard Land, the public policy chief for the Southern Baptist Convention, remembering how DeMoss performed in one hostile setting last January. “The audience was stacked for Santorum and Gingrich.
“But he has a lot of street cred with evangelicals,” Land says of DeMoss. “He understands us because he’s one of us. So he did great.”
CNN Explains: What’s Mormonism?
Now that Romney has outlasted the other candidates to become the Republican nominee for president, DeMoss is using that street cred to help the candidate close the deal with evangelical voters in the weeks before Election Day.
It’s unclear whether he will succeed.
Polls show that although most evangelicals have come around to Romney, there’s a sizable chunk who have not. With those voters making up a huge part of the GOP base in swing states like Ohio, Iowa and Virginia, whether DeMoss’ gambit works could mean the difference between an Obama or a Romney White House.
For DeMoss, who is officially a senior adviser to the Romney campaign, the stakes of his work go well beyond electoral politics. He’s trying to open the American evangelical mind.
“I took this on to tackle prejudicial attitudes,” DeMoss says, explaining how he approached Romney about running for president in 2006, convinced that the then-Massachusetts governor was the most qualified man for the presidency that he’d ever seen.
How Mormonism shaped Mitt Romney
“I discussed it with Romney the first time we met,” he continues, sitting in his room at the elegant Vinoy Resort and Golf Club in St. Petersburg, his home during the convention. “It bothered me that some evangelicals said they couldn’t support a Mormon for president. As a public relations guy, I wanted to change that mindset.”
Which is why DeMoss was in front of the North Carolina delegation at the convention Monday morning, arguing that it’s unfair for some Republicans to insist on a presidential nominee with whom they agree about everything.
“My advice to those folks is perhaps you should run yourself the next time,” DeMoss told the evangelical-heavy delegation in a Hilton Hotel ballroom, still abuzz about a powerhouse speech that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had delivered a few minutes earlier.
“My wife and I have been married for 24 years,” DeMoss said, “and I don’t agree with her on everything.”
Looking professorial in tortoiseshell glasses, a blue blazer and a white polo shirt tucked into khakis, DeMoss never mentioned religion or Romney’s Mormonism.
But you could tell it was a big part of what he was talking about.
It’s why he told the delegation that he has prayed with Mitt Romney and shared scripture with him and has even sought parenting advice from Romney and his wife, Ann.
After years of traveling and visiting with the Romney, DeMoss told the crowd, “I trust his values - for I’m fully convinced they mirror my own.”
It might not sound like much, but an evangelical Christian vouching for a Mormon’s values in front of ballroom full of fellow believers can be a powerful thing.
At least that’s the hope.
Lessons from the Moral Majority
DeMoss developed an appreciation for Mormons from a somewhat unlikely source: the evangelical giant Jerry Falwell.
He enrolled at Liberty University, Falwell’s school, in 1980, the year after his father died of a heart attack. Falwell, a fundamentalist preacher, would become like a second father.
DeMoss’s dad had been friends with Falwell – DeMoss says it’s unclear if the insurance marketing company his father founded, National Liberty Corp., helped give Liberty University its name – and Mark found work in Falwell’s office after graduation.
By the time he was 23, DeMoss was serving as Falwell’s chief of staff and spokesman, helping his boss run a growing evangelical empire that included the Lynchburg, Virginia, university and a new organization Falwell had helped found: the Moral Majority.
The organization aimed to bring evangelicals back into the political fold, after millions of them had spent decades sitting out elections, convinced that politics were a dirty, ungodly business.
“We traveled the country, challenging pastors to get involved. He outworked staff that were half his age” DeMoss says of Falwell, who died at 73 in 2007.
Mark DeMoss with Jerry Falwell at 1992 Republican Convention in San Diego, California.
Falwell taught him how political organizing works, from the grassroots to the very top. He took him to meetings with President Ronald Reagan, whom the Moral Majority had helped elect, and President George H.W. Bush.
Among the most important lessons Falwell taught, DeMoss says, is that politics is the art of the possible.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who was more politically conservative than Falwell, but he became increasingly pragmatic,” DeMoss says, eating blueberries from a plastic cup in his hotel room. “He was more practical and open-minded than a lot of people saw.”
As he waged crusades against abortion and for prayer in schools, Falwell proudly linked arms with non-evangelicals. While others in the burgeoning Christian Right wanted to organize only among their own flocks, the Moral Majority chief pushed an idea called co-belligerency: people of different religious backgrounds setting aside theological differences to pursue common political goals.
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“A lot of people forget this or didn’t know it to begin with, but the Moral Majority was a coalition of evangelicals, Catholics, Jews and Mormons,” DeMoss says. “It was not an evangelical organization.”
Mormons consider themselves to be Christians, but some evangelicals and other traditional Christians disagree. While Mormons treat the Bible as Scripture, they also consider the Book of Mormon to be a holy book
There are other big differences between Mormonism and traditional Christianity, including the Mormon belief that the modern prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can receive revelations from God. Traditional Christians believe that the period for such revelations is over.
But Falwell’s insistence on coalition building with Mormons and others stuck with DeMoss long after he left the Lynchburg in 1991 to start his own Christian PR firm in Atlanta.
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The firm, called the DeMoss Group, took Falwell as its first client and quickly added business from big Christian groups like Chuck Colson’s Prison Ministries, Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse and Christian Crusade for Christ.
More than 20 years later, those groups are still with DeMoss.
“What makes Mark different than a lot other guys in this business is that he’s independently wealthy,” says Graham, who notes that DeMoss’ wife, April, is also from a family that started an insurance company.
“I find him to shoot straight because he’s not trying to keep my business,” Graham says. “I think he’s more concerned with trying to be honest. He will bill you and then at the same time he’ll make a big contribution back to you.”
Mark DeMoss with the Rev. Franklin Graham, a client since 1991.
Though DeMoss has kept his work for Romney, which is unpaid, separate from the DeMoss Group, the relationships he built over decades through his PR work are key to selling Romney to evangelical leaders.
Graham had never met Romney before DeMoss arranged for 15 conservative Christian leaders to visit Romney’s Massachusetts home in 2007, when he was preparing to make his first run for president.
As the leaders took turns introducing themselves, many volunteered that they had traveled to Romney’s home mostly because DeMoss had asked them.
By the end of the meeting, Romney had made some new friends.
“Sometimes on TV someone can appear one way but when you meet them face to face you see the personal side of him,” says Graham, recalling the meeting. “After I met Governor Romney I liked him very much and even more l liked his wife and his marriage and his commitment to family.”
As for theological issues that interested some of the evangelicals, Graham says Romney “answered those questions extremely well.”
Since then, DeMoss has helped evangelical leaders not only become more comfortable with the idea of a Mormon in the White House but also with Romney’s evolving position on issues like gay marriage and abortion.
“He’s absolutely trusted as a pro-life person,” Land says of DeMoss. “When he says Governor Romney is pro-life, that means something. That helps.”
Land is among the many evangelical leaders who use DeMoss to relay concerns or advice to the governor.
“Mark’s a trusted negotiator,” says Land, who had dinner with Romney and DeMoss last year.
Though Romney’s 2008 campaign was unsuccessful, DeMoss counted it as a victory that no major evangelical figure came out against him over his faith, even if few publicly endorsed his campaign.
Four years later, there still aren’t many prominent evangelicals who’ve come out publicly for Romney.
And there are questions about where Romney stands with rank-and-file evangelicals. A recent Pew poll found that, while most white evangelicals support Romney, a quarter are uncomfortable with his religion. Just one in five in that group are strongly pro-Romney.
Ten weeks before Election Day, it’s not where a Republican nominee wants a key part of his base to be.
Visiting Salt Lake
DeMoss’ case for why evangelicals can enthusiastically support a Mormon candidate echo Falwell’s arguments about why evangelicals and Mormons should be political allies.
It goes like this: If evangelicals are OK with seeing a Mormon doctor or flying with a Mormon pilot, DeMoss reasons, shouldn’t they be OK with a Mormon president? We’re electing a commander-in-chief, not a pastor-in-chief, right?
Plus, fixing the national economy – the No.1 issue in this election – doesn’t really have anything to do with religion.
In fact, DeMoss was drawn to Romney because of the candidate’s unusual breadth of experience as a businessman, governor and Olympics Committee chief with dual degrees from Harvard.
“On a personal level and a spiritual level, I might care a great deal about what somebody believes doctrinally,” he tells NPR during a phone interview from his room at the Vinroy. “In the case of presidential election, I don’t care.”
After hanging up, DeMoss stays on that point: “I hope I’ve shifted a conversation about the religion of a candidate to one about the values of a candidate.”
DeMoss says that voting on the basis of a candidate’s faith is dangerous and inane. He notes that three of the most successful politicians from his own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, are all Democrats whom many evangelical loathe: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
Since January, DeMoss has spent about half his time making such arguments, stressing to clients that the work is not official firm business. Still, he suspects that some potential clients have skipped signing up with the DeMoss Group because its founder and president is pushing a Mormon candidate.
April, his wife, who’s checking her iPhone on the bed of DeMoss’ hotel room, says they’ve lost a few friends over Romney, too. But they’ve also made new Mormons friends, and have developed a deep appreciation for the Mormon faith.
On the van to the hotel to address the North Carolina delegation, Mark and April trade stories with their Mormon driver, a convention staffer, about their respective visits to Salt Lake City, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is headquartered.
Later, DeMoss talks about being turned off by the evangelical street preachers he’d seen on the street corners there, preaching to Mormons in town for the church’s annual general assembly. How could such evangelizers hope to convert anybody in the 30 or so seconds it takes to wait for the light to change?
For DeMoss, the episode represents a civility deficit when it comes to the evangelical treatment of Mormons. He sees his work with Romney partly as a corrective.
Whether DeMoss can help soften the evangelical line toward Mormons is an open question. So is whether he can get enough of his brethren to go a giant step further and vote for a Mormon for president.
Harvey stated that it does not matter about the faith of the canidate for pres........REALLY YOU MUST BE OUT OFF YOUR MIND. Guess you dont care how this Country, The Great United States of America. Who's Leader is to be a roll modle for the entire nation. What do you think the country was founded on? Its leader up till now turned to Prayer for the issues of the nation. the foundation off the Nation was built on the bible.
yeah, and let us christians kill 11 million indians first. religion is ancient practice that is still played by the fearful.
Saved by Grace wrote some disturbing things:
"Guess you dont care how this Country, The Great United States of America."
What the fvck does that mean??
then "Who's Leader is to be a roll modle for the entire nation."
did you by any chance mean to say "Whose leader is to be a role model for . . ."
then the whole business about what the country was founded on – which is liberty you dingbat, not the fairy tale bible.
Also, take it easy on your shift key. Capitalizing letters doesn't make your fairy-tale characters any more real.
Thats great you can read. Thank you for the spell check. How about looking up the word liberty ( no it all grammer police). founding fathers trusted God....... oll no the shift key again. There was a foundation before liberty/ foundation of faith and belife in God......ANOTHER SHIFT KEY. Bet you could build a house with no foundation huh.
Grace wrote: " . .There was a foundation before . . ."
Too bad! (for you, but good for me) We have to abide by what is in the Const'itution. So I recommend you leave your pathetic excuses (personal letters or addresses by this person or that person) behind and get with the times! If you really want to argue the concept of separation of church and state, with any hope of success, I'm afraid you'll need to do so using the Const'itution with its amendments or any official judicial decisions referencing the matter. Take a form to fill out on the way out.
Mormons are not destined for hell. There is no hell. God's vengeance? That's a lie they tell. For their lies, let them feel the real thing. Hand them their precious Mitt, ridiculed and humiliated for the rest of his life. Tell their stories and let people see how extraordinarily foolish their doctrine is and how amazingly stupid the gullible, exploited people are who believe it. Let them know that their leaders don't actually believe the trash they spew.
christian and muslim doc-um-ments share the same trash can
Not voting for someone because they are not Christian is no different to not voting for someone because they are not white. Shame on anyone who dares to call themselves Christian, and to be such a small minded bigot.
All judgment and reason is suspended.
yeah, yeah.. and jesus is coming to come back to life. yeah, and yeah, he'll show you all. Religion, no different that kids tree house rules and games. Including 'no girls allowed and what the hierarchy says behind closed doors, stays there'.
I always had more fun with the boys that didn't play "No girls allowed"...
Mormans are not and will not be the chosen people of God and his son our Saviour Jesus Christ, because they have corrupted the holy words of the bible with the filth of the LDS prophets Brigham Young and the pervert Joeseph Smith. Does anyone know if you can see if the boys/men that wear magic underwear have erec*tions, big ones, size matters to me? Mormans and non-believers alike will suffer the eteral worms and flames of satan, come to jesus it is not to late.
@New Fake HeavenSent
Are you accepting responsibilty for being HS now? I could use a break.
yeah, yeah,, jesus will get those filthy bas=tar-ds. He will show you all. Come on jesus, show them now.You're my fiction hero i created because life isn't fair and I want to get even. Odd those who invented miracles and biblical events, were mostly people who were terrorized.
@one of many fakeHS
I'll have to pass, I am going to watch the golf tourny on TV, I am sure someone else, maybe Fake HS #50, will fill the void. Peac, see you in hell, hopefully.
I do not understand why The US would want to elect Romney, a Cult member...that what Mormonism is a Cult! why do the rest of the country want to drink the same Kool-Aid?... Mormonism is not Cristian! Does the Republican Party want to pull a wool over our eyes?!..or they just do not care, as long as the GOP gets someone beside Obama, even if is the Devil himself!!..
it's no different than being a christian or muslim. They're all the same, just silly.
Christianity is a cult. Mormonism is a cult. Religion is a cult. The sky is blue.
Simply put, all religious parents who indocrinate their children into their religion are robbing their children of the freedom of choice. A childhood devoid of truth and freedom is, by definition, child abuse. Hence, these parents are unfit to raise children.
I couldn't agree more. I treat religion as the p-o-r-n it is and keep it away from children. The religious don't like that since they know brainwashing is more effective if started in early life. Child abuse by a bunch of people on a selfish salvation trip.
Mark DeMoss (unspoken): "I'm being paid SO much money to sit here with this ass."
Prayer takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
Prayer has been shown to have no discernible effect towards what was prayed for.
Prayer makes you frothy like Rick Santorum. Just go to http://santorum.com to find out more.
Prayer prevents you from getting badly needed exercise.
Prayer makes you fat, pale, weak, and sedentary.
Prayer wears out your clothes prematurely.
Prayer contributes to global warming through excess CO2 emissions.
Prayer fucks up your knees and your neck and your back.
Prayer can cause heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
Prayer reveals how stupid you are to the world.
Prayer exposes your backside to pervert priests.
Prayer makes you think doilies are exciting.
Prayer makes you secretively flatulent and embarrassed about it.
Prayer makes your kids avoid spending time with you.
Prayer gives you knobbly knees.
Prayer makes you frothy like Rick Santorum. Just google him to find out.
Prayer dulls your senses.
Prayer makes you hoard cats.
Prayer makes you smell like shitty kitty litter and leads you on to harder drugs.
Prayer wastes time.
It's obsessive compulsion to grab at any straw to give a reason not to learn or understand. Get a life and try to grow. I stood up and got my nice hair-do stuck in ceiling fan. Read the Bible. It is 100 percent accurate in every facet.
The bible is a tale written by men. And god created the universe in 6 days. Why not in an instant? And he rested the 7th day. A poor tired god? Proof alone man wrote the bible.
You don't have to pray about your opinions, but you do have to realize opinions are not facts. And, you can believe as you wish. I'm sure you've wished before.
"Can Mitt Romney’s evangelical ambassador seal the deal before Election Day?"
Just like Rev. Wright.
I don't always worship God...but when I do, I prefer Jesus.
Stay carnal my friends.
I am stunned, stunned, that religion of any type is part of this election or any other..
I have no use for these Rightwing religious groups whether so-called Christian or Muslim or Jewish etc etc.and hope to H my kids never live under the thumb of a religious state, with Their laws in effect ..Their hate.. Their bigotry.. . No No No.. Not in MY country.. Go away, all of you.
You are a hateful, wicked woman. I am disheartened to know that you have children. Terrifying.
Julia, I have been open and honest with my children about my atheism. Additionally I have taught them the many varieties of religion practiced around the world. Their mother is Catholic. When given the facts, they chose Atheism without hesitation. Christianity can only thrive in a community that tolerates and even encourges brain washing / religious indoctrination void of truth. AKA, child abuse.
John, speaking of hateful, and since you are unloading quotes from the Christian book of nasty AKA the bible, let's look at some of the hateful and nasty stuff that the bible demands of Christian sheeple:
17 Now kiII all the boys. And kiII every woman who has slept with a man,
18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.
Deuteronomy 13:6 – “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”
Revelations 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
Note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.
Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.
And then, if you disagree with my interpretation, ask yourself how it is that your "god" couldn't come up with a better way to communicate than a book that is so readily subject to so many interpretations and to being taken "out of context", and has so many mistakes in it. Pretty pathetic god that you've made for yourself.
So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.
And Julia, great post. You rock.
Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement. Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
Great post, Julia! Sadly the religious are like alcoholics, they are in denial and need buddy believers.
Personally, I'm not convinced that those "Right" wingnuut "Compassionate Conservatives" are actually Christians of any kind... I mean, think about it – ask them how their ideology lines up with the question "What Would Jesus Do?"
It becomes clear that Jesus is more of an excuse for much of their thinking and behavior than a role model
The DeMoss Group
Public Relations for Faith-based Organizations
Founded by Mark DeMoss in 1991, The DeMoss Group is the nation’s first and largest public relations agency exclusively serving Christian leaders, businesses, non-profit organizations and causes.
The DeMoss Group provides a range of public relations services including, branding, media relations, influencer relations, crisis communications, marketing, and social media strategy and execution.
http://www.demossgroup.com/ that's really seedy.
I am a Mormon and yes, I will be voting for Mitt Romney. Not because he is a Mormon, but because he has the plan to put America back on track. Mitt Romney also understands women's issues so as a woman, I will also be voting for Mitt Romney. If you care about America, and if you are a woman, please vote for Mitt Romney, because Mitt Romney loves women and loves America.
I love women and I put them to work – that means jobs! I love America too, where it just about anything is possible for the right price. Hug some sex-workers today if you can and tell them that you love what they're doing for this country.
What, about Woman's issues do you think Romney understands?
AND, of what he understands, what of it do YOU think is good for women who want the First Amendment to apply to them?
In the photo Romney says, "I just farted". Mark is thinking, 'great...I can't believe I have to sit next to this guy'.
If this guy really opens the minds of American evangelicals, they will stop being evangelicals.
Prayer changes things .
I pray that you stop spamming.
You tried to give me a prayer-job and I just didn't get off. Stop trying to sell that shit.
I'm sorry "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but you assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. I see that you repeat these unfounded statements frequently. Perhaps the following book might help you overcome this problem:
I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to... by the Alzheimer's Disease Society
@happy shiny girl
The only prayer that God will hear from you is the sinners prayer of repentance. After you are born again you can talk to God on any subject at any time, opposing prayer will not be on your mind. God bless
@hal (former phony jesus )
What about the blow-job prayer? If god truly is masculine, it'll be answered.
@just sayin Which one? The other Gods will throw me into righteous everlasting torment, if I choose... poorly.
There's a secret Mormon practice known as the Kolob-job. Ask for it next time they show up on your doorstep.
Don't be gullible, there is no such thing as the "kolob-job."
It's a guy thing – like most things Mormon. You wouldn't know.
I've been a mormon male for most of my adult life and have never heard of "kolob-job". Completely unfounded and really don't know what you are talking about. I am also a High Priest, so don't tell me about not being in the right authority.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.