Republicans showcase wives in pre-Christmas, pre-Iowa ads

at 04:23 PM ET, 12/21/2011

A few days before Christmas, the wives of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and ex-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney are all featured in their husband’s political ads.

All three Republican candidates have something to gain from highlighting their spouses just two weeks shy of the first-in-the-nation Iowa voting on Jan. 3.

Gingrich has to tamp down concerns among social conservatives about his previous marriages. In his ads, Perry and his wife speak about bringing “Christian values”to Washington, boosting his status as an outsider. Romney faces skepticism about his religion and about his core values.

We think the Romney spot, “Character,” is the most successful in reinforcing the candidate as a steady, likeable husband and father. Ann Romney makes a subtle argument against accusations that her husband is a flip-flopper. “If you really want to know how a person will operate, look at how they've lived their life,” says the candidate’s wife of 42 years. It could also be seen as another indirect dig at Gingrich, like this previous ad.

Perry’s ad, “American Story,” isn’t quite as effective, although it does tell a compelling story. Anita Perry talks about waiting to get married until her fiancee had left the Air Force. (Perry himself shows up only at the end — wearing an artsy-looking black turtleneck). It’s a sign that the campaign sees Perry’s wife as a powerful tool on the trail.

Gingrich’s ad is probably the weakest. In it, Gingrich and and his wife Callista are featured only intermittenly, between generic shots of Christmas celebrations. Both come off a little stiff.

 
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