The Republican convention finally got underway today. The expectations for Ann Romney were sky high. Could she “humanize” her husband? Could she single-handedly close the gender gap? Time will tell, but she and a former Democratic congressman from Alabama delivered what Republicans had been looking for, that is, some genuine emotion and personal connection.
It was “We built it” night, with the president’s ill-chosen words repeated again and again by speakers and in video sequences. Before Ann Romney spoke, an energetic Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a feisty South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (who got the crowd cheering on voter ID, immigration enforcement and the Boeing labor case) and a forceful Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell made the case for Romney as a conservative reformer who wouldn’t fight them tooth and nail. (McDonnell declared: “When Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan get to work with Susana Martinez...Scott Walker...John Kasich ....Terry Branstad and governors from both parties across this country, we will get people back to work! Our great country can no longer afford the job-destroying policies coming out of Washington D.C.”)Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Romney rival Rick Santorum (the only one who raised the pro-life issue) and Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz also gave solid conservative speeches, but it was Democrat-turned-Republican Artur Davis gave the most stirring and poetic address, filled with appeals to Democrats with regrets about Obama, humorous jibes at the president and the fervent energy of a convert to the anti-Obama cause.
And then there was Ann Romney. The crowd erupted for the first time. She took a moment to recognize and ask for hopes and prayers for those in the path of hurricane Isaac. “I want to talk to you about love,” she began. She spoke in quiet tones, the crowd hushed. She spoke in emotional terms about the struggling families and “especially the moms,” whom she saluted, extolled and empathized with. “Everything has become harder,” she said.
She migrated to her husband , her own family story and her father-in-law. She described her early married days, in humble circumstances, and the daunting experience of becoming a mother at 22 years old when her husband was in graduate school. “I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a ‘storybook marriage.’ Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once. And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or Breast Cancer. A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage.”
She spoke with personal conviction, bringing the crowd to her feet with this personal endorsement of her husband:
I know this good and decent man for what he is -- warm and loving and patient.
He has tried to live his life with a set of values centered on family, faith, and love of one’s fellow man. From the time we were first married, I’ve seen him spend countless hours helping others. I’ve seen him drop everything to help a friend in trouble, and been there when late-night calls of panic came from a member of our church whose child had been taken to the hospital.
You may not agree with Mitt’s positions on issues or his politics. Massachusetts is only 13% Republican, so it’s not like that’s a shock.
But let me say this to every American who is thinking about who should be our next President:
No one will work harder.
No one will care more.
No one will move heaven and earth like Mitt Romney to make this country a better place to live!
She continued that her husband “was not handed success... He built it [the crowd cheered].” She went on to explain her husband’s reticence: “Mitt doesn’t like to talk about how he has helped others because he sees it as a privilege, not a political talking point. And we’re no different than the millions of Americans who quietly help their neighbors, their churches and their communities. They don’t do it so that others will think more of them. They do it because there is no greater joy. ‘Give and it shall be given unto you.’” She delivered perhaps the most compelling defense of his Bain years: “The jobs that grew from the risks they took have become college educations, first homes. That success has helped fund scholarships, pensions, and retirement funds. This is the genius of America: dreams fulfilled help others launch new dreams.” Looking straight ahead she firmly declared, “I can only stand here tonight, as a wife, a mother, a grandmother, an American, and make you this solemn commitment: This man will not fail.”
She showed a determination and soberness that was appropriate to a still doubting public. No one speech is going to turn an election. But Ann Romney delivered as promised. Romney and his team should consider themselves lucky to have a candidate’s wife who can look her fellow Americans in the eye and sound both sincere and ebullient. She is indeed his greatest asset.