When she is onstage, Ann Romney connects with crowds in a way that eludes her husband. She readily admits she has no financial struggles, but her health crises, she has said, give her a deep empathy for the suffering of others.
Just as many families in 2008 brought children with Down syndrome to see Sarah Palin, whose youngest son was born with the condition, people with MS seek Romney out at her appearances.
"She is mobbed at almost every event by people who want to tell her their story," Duprey said. "She speaks, the women cry, and men do too, by the way. There is something about Ann that draws people in
In South Carolina, a mother whose daughter had just discovered she had MS gave Romney a phone number, Duprey said. "Ann had some down time and called her."
Last February, at rallies in her home state, Ann reminisced about her Michigan childhood. Whereas her husband left people scratching heads over remarks that the trees in Michigan are "just the right height," Ann talked about being "the ultimate tomboy."
In Traverse City, a resort town on Lake Michigan, she recalled climbing sand dunes and draping blue racer snakes around her neck to scare her brothers. It was nearby, at her family's cottage in Manistee, she said, that her father caught Mitt stealing their first kiss.
In Troy, a suburb of Detroit, she spoke about her coal miner grandfather, who left Wales to give her father a better life, and how, in high school, she worked at the company founded by her inventor father.
She also described a conversation she had with Mitt as they weighed a second White House try.
"I need to have you answer one thing," she told Mitt. "If you win the nomination and if you can beat Barack Obama, I need to know: Can you fix America? And he said, 'Yes.' And I said, 'OK, let's go.' That's all I needed to hear."
As the crowd burst into applause, Ann Romney smiled.
"Maybe I should do all the talking," she said, "and let him just stand here and watch me."