The room of some 50 Republican activists has gone still. The women, and most of them are women, anxious about the future and their families, lean forward in their chairs.
“And it was Mitt who said, ‘You’re still here. We’re still together. We will get through this together,’ ” Mitt Romney’s wife says.
That was 13 years ago, and now Ann Romney is in remission. America, however, is not. America is in recession, or at least on the edge of it. The steadfastness and capability that Mitt Romney conveyed to his wife when she was foundering are the very qualities that should lead both GOP primary voters and the general electorate to put him in the White House, she suggests. That’s the point of the story.
The former Massachusetts governor is a technocrat, a man who looks so presidential on paper and often sounds so robotic in person, the frontrunner who’s a far better candidate the second time around but can’t consolidate his support. Romney may be a turnaround king, and you could picture him in the board room at the end of the long, polished table, but you can’t imagine him leaning toward voters and saying, “You’re still here, I’m still here, and we will get through this together.”
So his wife of 42 years says it for him, by telling deeply personal stories. Last week, she hit eight cities in five days. She did five events Thursday in South Carolina and had a sleepover with Gov. Nikki Haley, the state’s tea party standard-bearer, who has yet to endorse any Republican for president. On Tuesday, Ann Romney goes back to Iowa for three days.
So far, she is the only wife of a Republican candidate with a separate campaign schedule each week. Anita Perry, the wife of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is stepping up her pace, meeting with small groups and opening campaign offices last week in Iowa. On Friday, first lady Michelle Obama did three solo fundraising events for the Democratic National Committee.
The wife is expected to serve as verifier of character and interpreter of authenticity for her husband — and the incumbent and the Republican front-runners this time around are all husbands. She is expected to become an “effective surrogate,” in campaign-speak. She is the one with the eyewitness testimony.
“Those moments that I see late at night, after the girls have gone to bed, and he’s in his office poring over the letters and the briefings,” Michelle Obama told people at a Maine fundraiser Friday. “And I hear the passion in his voice and the determination. He says, ‘Michelle, this isn’t right.’We have to fix this.”
The wife is expected to fiercely defend the candidate against attacks, and after his own stumbles. Anita Perry tried her hand at expectation management after her husband’s poor debate performances. “He’s never had a debate class or a debate coach in his life,” she told a group in Iowa last week, according to the Des Moines Register. “He’s going to be better prepared next time.” Ann Romney says she turns into a “she-beast” when her husband is criticized.