In last Sunday’s New York Times, Maureen Dowd took a look at the latest role being thrust upon the campaign spouse: motivator-in-chief.

WEST DES MOINES, IA - JANUARY 03: Republican presidential hopeful and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (L) (R-PA) walks with his wife Karen after speaking during a "Rock the Caucus" event at Valley High School on January 3, 2012 in West Des Moines, Iowa. (Justin Sullivan/GETTY IMAGES)

But one candidate’s account of his deal with his wife rings far truer to me. A little more than a year ago, as former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was considering whether to wage his long-shot campaign, he told me his wife had agreed to let him do it, with one stipulation.:

... the most pointed advice has been from his wife, Karen, who issued a dictate she had never given in his earlier endeavors.

“Do it right. Be serious about it,” Santorum recalled her telling him. “If you decide to do this, don’t embarrass me.”

Perhaps that explains his sudden surge in Iowa...

Karen Tumulty is Washington Post political reporter. Follow her on Twitter at @KTumulty.