Mia Love is a difficult person to interview. The challenge is finding the time to sit down and have a conversation with the Utah Republican and candidate for Congress—she’s one of the most sought-after interview subjects here at the convention.
Love has just finished her high-profile speech on Tuesday evening. On the top floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, we find a corner and two chairs near the radio correspondents’ skybox for a post-speech interview. “It felt good,” Love tells me when I ask her how she felt about her address. “I spoke from the heart, so I hope I did okay.”
But after only a few minutes, she has to interrupt me to do a quick radio hit with a major network. When Love returns, two other reporters have found her and are bugging her aide to allow them “just a few questions.” We decide to continue our interview on foot, walking down several flights of stairs to Love’s next event, while the other journalists follow. We’re moving fast, and the stairwell is hot. Love isn’t breaking a sweat, however, as we reach the bottom of the stairs and talk about her favorite pastime: running.
“I guess running just helps me kind of put things in order,” says Love, who has a petite, athletic build. “It’s something I do for me. I think it’s important for me to take care of myself, take care of my body.” She looks a little embarrassed when she admits she “only” ran three and a half miles yesterday and didn’t run at all today.
But if the lapse in her exercise regimen threw her off, Love didn’t show it in her national debut. The four-minute address to the delegates in Tuesday’s 7 o’clock hour was well received in the convention hall, where many got to meet the 36-year-old Love for the first time.
“My parents immigrated to this country with $10 in their pocket and a hope that the America they heard about really did exist,” Love said. “When tough times came, they didn’t look to Washington; they looked within.”
The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Love is a Mormon convert and the mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah. And if she wins the election over six-term Democrat Jim Matheson, she will also be the first black female Republican in Congress. In an election year where Democrats and their allies in the media have tried to portray the Republican party as bigoted toward women and minorities, the decision to give Love precious time in Tampa was a no-brainer for the GOP.
In her remarks, which focused on celebrating the “American story,” Love gave a nod to the chapter on civil rights. “Our story has been told for over 200 years, with small steps and giant leaps, from a woman on a bus to a man with a dream, from the bravery of the greatest generation to the innovators and entrepreneurs of today, this is our story. This is our America,” said Love, who is normally cautious—almost averse—to incorporating her own race into her political profile.
“The main reason for bringing up Rosa Parks and bringing up Martin Luther King is because I wanted to paint a vision of where we’ve been and where we’ve gone, how much we’ve moved forward,” Love says.
But what endeared her most to the Republican crowd in Tampa was the pitch-perfect red meat she served up, including pointed criticism of Barack Obama.
“His policies have failed us, we’re not better off than we were four years ago, and no rhetoric, bumper sticker, or Hollywood campaign ad can change that,” she said to cheers. “Mr. President, I’m here to tell you the American people are awake, and we’re not buying what you’re selling in 2012.”
It’s no wonder Republicans are abuzz about Love. She was one of the first candidates to win the “Young Gun” designation from the National Republican Congressional Committee this cycle. Her fellow Utahan, Republican senator Orrin Hatch, praises Love as an “exceptional woman . . . one of the most exciting personalities I’ve seen in years.”
After our interview, Love hurries down to the floor of the convention for the final speeches of the evening. I spot her walking through masses of delegates, shaking hands with VIPs and waving at the attendees around her. The headline on the Drudge Report says it all: “Star is Born.”♦