‘Mittigator’ to make case for Romney

His ‘sweetheart’ for decades is also a tough player in campaign

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Mrs. Romney will be showcased Tuesday evening, charged with warming up her husband’s image and appealing to a particularly powerful voting bloc in this election.

Ann Romney has earned rock-star status this year among conservative women,” said Teri Cristophe, co-chairwoman of She-PAC, a political action committee seeking to help elect conservative women running for federal and statewide office.

“She is out on the campaign trail every day meeting women from all walks of life and has come to the same conclusion as many of us: The real ‘war on women’ is the economy,” Mrs. Christophe said. “I suspect that, like me, many women voters are extremely grateful to Mrs. Romney for speaking up about the economic hardships we are facing and the tough choices we are having to make in order to provide for our families. She is not at all intimidated by her critics and is clearly Team Romney’s greatest asset.”

The Romney romance is still very much intact, their marriage traditional. The couple met in a Michigan elementary school, kept in touch, admired from afar and married in 1969. The bride was 19, the groom 22; their wedding portraits reveal a good-looking couple who eventually raised a family of five boys with ample home cooking, good cheer and Bible reading.

The mother of five and grandmother of 18 is candid about the catastrophic illnesses that have upended her life, a struggle that has brought her much respect among voters. She is first to offer details about the challenge posed by her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, and her husband’s attentive devotion during the worst of it.

“Even when I was as sick as that, he would curl up in the bed with me,” Mrs. Romney recalled during a recent CNN interview. “It was like he was going to do anything he could to just say, ‘I’m here. You’re OK. Just stay right there, and we’ll be OK.’”

The incurable neurological disorder has been in remission, but not completely. Weakness sent her tumbling to the ground on Super Tuesday; it was a disturbing reality check, and a reminder to guard her health. Mrs. Romney also does not hide her encounter with breast cancer just as her husband’s campaign was getting under way in 2008.

Political prowess emerges

She is tough in other ways, adamant, for example, in dismissing the Democratic Party’s demand for greater disclosure of the Romney tax records. Mrs. Romney also remains unapologetic about her role as a stay-at-home mom, an issue wrenched into the public discourse after Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen took issue with it in April, suggesting on CNN that Mrs. Romney didn’t understand real women’s problems because she had “never worked a day in her life.” The liberal press instantly and gleefully ran with the story.

So did Mrs. Romney. “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work,” she said in her very first tweet shortly thereafter. “All moms are entitled to choose their path.”

The moment perfectly illustrates Mrs. Romney’s political finesse, delivering her response with firmness and simplicity but no vitriol. Ms. Rosen publicly apologized for her remark, and the exchange prompted keen interest from broadcast news. Mrs. Romney, in fact, garnered twice as much coverage as first lady Michelle Obama that month, according to a University of Minnesota analysis released in the aftermath.

She was born Ann Lois Davies in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., daughter of a Welsh-born self-made businessman who was also mayor of the pleasant town just 20 miles northwest of Detroit. Her husband’s father, George Romney, was governor of Michigan, ran for president in 1968 and was ultimately appointed secretary of housing and urban development by President Nixon. Her mother-in-law, Lenore Romney, ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1970. House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford attended her wedding to young Mitt. Ann Romney ran for town council representative in her residence at the time: Belmont, Mass. She was 27, campaigning door to door with printed handouts she made herself.

Mrs. Romney won.

She gained much additional insight about political realities after her husband tried unsuccessfully to unseat Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in 1994. Mr. Romney later declared that he would never run for office again unless he could win. The story changed eight years later when he was elected governor of Massachusetts by a generous margin.

It will change again should he win the presidency.

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