We’ve talked a lot about Mitt Romney on the blog — some think we should support him simply because he’s a Mormon (I vehemently disagree). The southern Baptists hate his guts (they hate all of ours — oh, that’s too extreme — most devout southern Baptists hate — and that’s not too strong a word — most Mormons); and many Americans are cautious about his religious beliefs. However, I’ve got a “Mitt believer” for you — my friend, Lois Vanderbur.

Lois lives in Mapleton, Iowa where she is a solidly committed member of Iowa’s Republican Party. Raised a Lutheran, she attended a rather eclectic mix of Protestant churches throughout her life and studied religion and philosophy while in college. Because there is no Lutheran church in Mapleton, she attends her husband’s church, United Church of Christ, which is very liberal, and is Barack Obama’s church in Chicago. A veritable force of nature, she balances constant service to her church, community, party, family and fellow man. She’s also solidly in Mitt Romney’s corner.

Vanderbur’s patriotism is engrained, a product of her solidly Midwest upbringing and her devotion to her husband, Gene, as he spent years working for the federal government.

Gene’s government service began with a stint in the Marine Corps; returning home, he attended Iowa State University, where he was chosen to represent International Farm Youth (IFFY, an off-shoot of 4-H) in Turkey. He lived there for six months, coming home fluent in Turkish. Upon graduating, he moved with his wife to Washington, DC, where he worked for the USDA. Later, after he had moved back to his hometown and bought a hardware store, the government asked him to go to Addis Ababa, Ethiopa . He took his family to Africa and worked as the Administrative Officer for the Livestock Center of Africa under UN and World Bank sponsorship.

The Vanderburs now live in the home where Gene was born, on a farm that has been in his family for generations. Their grown children are a credit to their parents: Krista, their daughter, teaches 8th grade while her husband runs the local grain elevator, and Lars, the youngest is a pediatrician.

Kirk, their oldest son, served as a lieutenant in the Marine Corps until his death in 1992. I met Lois when we both questioned the manner of death in our sons’ cases. We were founding members , of the national advocacy group, “Until We Have Answers” which lobbied for reform in military investigative techniques. Mostly defunct, we formed a bond for life as we fought with the government. Kirk’s death was especially suspicious because he’d been shot twice, once in the stomach and once in the head. It was ruled a suicide and the Vanderburs have spent years and countless dollars trying to get the federal government to investigate the persons who murdered their son, to no avail.

Despite this betrayal, their patriotism is firm. Besides their three children, they have three grandchildren, aging parents, and busy lives that reflect the best of America’s values.

Lois loves life in Iowa and she beams as she tells of meeting many prominent politicians — “they all come to Iowa!” She has met Laura Bush and proudly relates, “all my Senators know my name!” While Iowa is a battleground state in the national election, it is also small, allowing the candidates to meet the citizens on a much more personal level than, say, New York — or even Utah.

Lois Vanderbur, wearing her vibrant yellow Mitt Romney T-shirt was up bright and early to catch the bus at 7am. She met Romney two years ago and was instantly impressed with his friendly, down-to-earth manner. She has a great deal of faith in his managerial capabilities and cites his expertise in turning around the 2002 Olympics and his success as governor of Massachussetts. She relates that he’s a very good listener and is genuine in expressing his interest in the individual. He takes time for people, she says.

Mitt has spent a lot of time in Iowa supporting the Republican Party, even campaigning for local candidates and Lois believes that the Iowa Republican party owes him their loyalty in return.

She rejects any argument against his bid for the presidency that are based upon his religion. She is proud of the fact that their farm is right on the Mormon Trail and her town is the home of a Mormon pioneer museum and cemetery. She has many Mormon friends who she respects and enjoys. Romney’s religion is simply a non-issue; indeed, she is angered when the press continues to make an issue of his Mormonism. “Why don’t they ask Barak Obama more about his childhood as a Muslim?” she asks with her traditional spunk. She’s proud to be one of two Monono County chairs for Romney and declares, “we all need Mitt’s help!” She is equally enthusiastic about the candidate’s wife, Ann. “The candidates’ wives are their best spokesmen — no, I mean, spokespersons!” she laughs, sharing her respect for Ann Romney’s dignity and the strength she has shown by staying at her husband’s side while dealing with MS.

Lois dismisses Fred Thompson’s candidacy with a terse comment:

Fred Thompson is a “suit”. He is a good actor. He wasn’t a good Senator. Where is the substance?

While Iowa’s voters can be unpredictable and straw polls are an inaccurate gauge of national election results, Lois Vanderbur, an eternal optimist, has high hopes for her candidate. She believes that the rest of the country will soon follow Iowa’s lead in judging him by his capabilities rather than his religion. The 2008 race for president is going to be interesting one and candidates should be careful not to underestimate the quiet patriots, like the Vanderburs, who reject liberal politics and stand strongly upon the very foundations of this country.