TAMPA — If you liked Ann Romney in prime time on Tuesday, then you would have loved her on Wednesday. At a “Women for Mitt” event, her five daughters-in-law took turns praising her as a “real, modern feminist” who taught them to cook, “shop for heels,’’ and be the kind of wife who according to Laurie Romney, Matt’s wife, remembers “not to weigh him down with all the little hard things that happen during the day.” (Does your husband wish someone had given you that advice? Right; mine, too.)
It was Mitt Romney — in a pretaped video — who introduced his wife, whom he called “my sweetheart,” and he got a big laugh when he wondered, if she were the candidate, whether “the press would write about how I ‘humanize’ Ann?”
But for those who, like Fox News analyst Juan Williams, thought Ann Romney came across as a “corporate wife” in her prime-time convention address, it was herself she ‘humanized’ on Wednesday, repeatedly and convincingly reverse-bragging — complaining, you might even say — that during her child-rearing years, her sons were no picnic, her true love was often on the road, and “I used to feel sorry for myself a lot” as the only female in the house.
“It was a big decision for me to have that last son,” she told the crowd. (And no, there’s not the remotest chance she was suggesting she considered doing otherwise.)
If there’s a mother alive who couldn’t relate to her description of those days the kids weren’t on their best behavior, I haven’t met her. And not surprisingly, given the more intimate setting in a hotel ballroom, the aspiring first lady came across as more relaxed and relatable than in her big moment in the spotlight.
When she first stepped to the podium on Tuesday night, said how excited she was and in the same breath asked that we remember those in the path of Hurricane Isaac, I briefly feared she was veering into James Cameron territory, per the infamous Oscar speech in which he asked for a moment of silence for the long-dead victims of the Titanic, then yelled, “Now let’s party!”
We should grade spousal speechifying leniently, and the address did have its moments. (“He. Will. Not. Fail.’’ was one.) But there was too much pandering to moms at the expense of dads; if men are all such idiots, why should either one of these nominees be put in charge of anything? As for her line about how much more deeply women sigh late in the evening, well as a matter of fact, I do do that, but as a remnant of childhood asthma; my mom used to say I sounded like a whale surfacing. (And yes, Obama’s condescending “girls rule, boys drool” shout-outs similarly annoy me.)
On Wednesday, however, the candidate’s wife had a far better day at the microphone. Best line: When “I see my sons treating their wives with such love and respect, then I know I’ve done my job.” (Would that more moms in both parties could say that.)
She made a more effective case for her husband, too.
All women, she said, should “go into that voting booth and vote for their children’s futures,” presumably with deficit-cutting in mind. “You look to Europe — how is it not obvious to everyone that this is the path we’re on?”
It’s Romney-Ryan — “the dynamic duo,” she called them — who are prepared to “do the hard thing, the responsible thing, the moral thing,” she said, though she didn’t mention entitlement cuts, or how tax cuts would help shrink the deficit.
Political spouses don’t have an easy job, and she also volunteered that “I feel a little sorry” for vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s wife Janna Ryan, who gave her first, charmingly nervous campaign remarks at the same event. “I feel a little responsible for her,” Ann Romney said, because “it takes a few years to get up to speed and accept” all that’s thrown at anyone on the national stage.
Then, just before calling her grandkids up to join her on that stage, she said, “I’ll wrap this up and then show the rewards of having a happy marriage” — then threw her head back and belly-laughed. Win or lose, she is enjoying the moment, and that’s always a pleasure to see.
Melinda Henneberger is Post political writer and anchors the paper’s She the People blog. Follow her on Twitter at @MelindaDC.