SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — More than virtually any other 2012 candidate, Mia Love, the Republican nominee for Utah's fourth Congressional district, has become the darling of the conservative blogosphere — so much so, that when she sat down with BuzzFeed for an interview last week, her instinct was to hit the site up for fundraising help.
"Here's what I need you to do for me," she said toward the end of a brief conversation at the Utah Republican Party headquarters. "This is very important. I am running a race against Democrat Jim Matheson, and it's all hands on deck... I need you to put a ticker on your website to say 'Donate to Mia Love.'"
When the request was met with mild befuddlement, Love kept pushing: "Seriously! The time has come for us to no longer just stand on the sidelines and watch and see what happens. If you understand and can see the sincerity of what I'm saying, I need people to take a stand... I need you to put a ticker, and we need to raise a million dollars."
"Will you do that for me?" she concluded.
Informed that BuzzFeed Politics was a nonpartisan news site, she shrugged and offered a half-hearted "Okay."
If Love is unaccustomed to seeing her pitches rejected, it's easy to see why. A small-city mayor and dynamic campaign presence, she would be the first black female Republican ever to join the House of Representatives — a profile that has led conservative bloggers to knight her a "rising star" in the party. HotAir.com's Tina Korbe, who talked to Love outside the CPAC bloggers lounge in February, gushed that she "instantly felt more cheerful just for having talked to her." And Reason posted a video of her March under the headline, "You just might fall in love with Mia Love."
Love told BuzzFeed she understands the excitement about her profile, but that she tries to keep her message focused on small-government economics.
"When people bring those things up... I just go back and say, 'This is my area of focus,'" she said, outlining a platform that focuses on deficit reduction and entitlement reform.
Still, she's not unwilling to use her life story to make her point (or take digs at President Obama). A daughter of Haitian immigrants who was born in Brooklyn, Love recalled stories told by her father — a model legal immigrant by the GOP's standards — about straining to learn English, and studying American history. "When I was able to go in and pledge my allegiance for the first time, I knew exactly what I was saying, and I mean every word of it," he told her.
"All of my principles come from attaining that American dream, because you have to understand, I'm a product of it," she said. "It wasn't because of government, unlike what the president said."
Asked whether she thought Obama's own life story qualified him to similarly assert that he's "a product of the American dream," Love demurred.
"So far as I"m concerned, [Obama's] policies are way off," she said. "If he's actually had a lifestyle where he's achieved the American dream, he's not following the pathway to prosperity, which is the free market, free enterprise."
If Love's reflexive pitch to BuzzFeed for fundraising help was evidence of her cozy relationship with the online conservative grassroots, it may also reflect the uphill climb she faces in defeating six-term Democratic incumbent, Rep. Jim Matheson. Though their newly-formed district, like the rest of the state, is mostly red, she continues to trail him by about 15 points according to a recent poll. And while she hustles to raise cash to compete with Matheson — a conservative Democrat who voted against Obamacare, and whose father once served as Utah governor — her campaign has reportedly faced significant organizational problems.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Love is currently on her third campaign manager, and "the party has stepped in to help steer the wheel and otherwise keep a close eye on the operation."
In the mean time, Love is putting on a confident face: "I'm willing to stand up, and I need everyone else to do the same thing. If I have the right resources, we will win."
McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Contact McKay Coppins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.