Ann Romney, wife of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, addresses the… (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated…)
The Republicans finally found someone who is truly, madly, deeply excited about the prospect of a President Mitt Romney: his wife, Ann. It took awhile.
For a convention devoted to the notion of Romney as the next president of the United States, his name did not come up a lot, at least not in the prime-time speeches Tuesday at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.
To be fair, Hurricane Isaac demanded a fair amount of attention, hitting landfall and Anderson Cooper's nifty slicker just as the speeches began, requiring distracting crawls about the height of surges and the number of folks left without electricity (honestly, CNN, was loss of power worth a crawl during a political convention?).
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But even taking Isaac into account, "Romney" was not the word on everyone's lips. There was a lot of call for change, for taking our country back, many references to the tough time Americans face in this tough economy and the inability of Washington to fix things.
Folks such as House Speaker John Boehner and former Alabama congressman (and former Democrat) Artur Davis pinned the blame firmly on President Obama, lamenting promises that were made and not kept, pledging to get America back to work.
Working a surprisingly poetic evocation of the hands he has encountered during his campaigning (against, it must be said, Mitt Romney), former Sen. Rick Santorum brought in the importance of a high school education, strong two-parent families and a party that supports "all of God's children, born and unborn."
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But it wasn't until South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley came to the podium to introduce Ann Romney that support for the nominee himself took center stage. "He fixes things," Haley said, flashing one of the best smiles in the room, before turning matters over to Ann, who was there with one goal: humanize her husband.
Despite the years spent on the campaign trail, in this presidential primary and the last, despite an unheard-of number of televised pre-primary debates this year, Mitt Romney remains to many, Republican and Democrat alike, a personal cipher. His wife was there to provide the secret code.
Frankly, it took her more than a few minutes to get to Mitt as well. Lovely, animated and composed in first lady red, Ann Romney first acknowledged Hurricane Isaac, then moved almost directly to women.
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"I love women," she said, reaching out to close the gender gap that plagues her party. While all Americans are working harder these days "just to stay in place," it's women who are working just a little harder, she said. "I don't think men understand this, but I don't think any woman expects her life to be easy."
It was a kitchen-table moment, unexpected and oddly placed, but undeniably effective, at least in the hall where women were dabbing their eyes and nodding vehemently (though, mercifully, no one yelled, "You go, girl").
And when Romney's words turned finally to her husband, the tall, sort of charming boy she met at a dance almost a half-century ago, her love of and faith in him were eminently clear.
"No one will work harder, no one will care more," she said before pledging that "this man will not fail," strong words for supporter or wife, but clearly most sincere and quite convincing.
Regardless of party or message, the eyes of every candidate's wife shine and their words of love and endurance of trials inevitably stir, but Ann does have a spring in her step that her husband lacks and it's difficult to imagine the campaign won't use her more in the future.
Then New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took the stage and for almost half an hour it was back to anger and the rally cry, back to criticizing the president, celebrating hard-working real Americans, praising the goals and vision of the Republican Party and, oh yeah, we have a real leader and his name is Mitt Romney.
For much of Christie's speech, it must be said, Ann did not look pleased.