Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, addresses… (J. Scott Applewhite / AP…)
TAMPA, Fla. – She was calmer, quieter and much more relaxed Wednesday, but there was no question: Ann Romney was taking a victory lap. After her successful speech Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention, the wife of the Republican presidential nominee had a busy morning, ending up at a luncheon for Latino officials and entrepreneurs, with her Spanish-speaking son, Craig, in tow.
Reminding the group that her grandfather was a Welsh coal miner, she said, “I know what it’s like to be the daughter of an immigrant, I know what it’s like for my father to tell me that by being in this country anything is possible.”
Mitt Romney has little hope of closing the large gap between himself and President Obama with women and Latinos. His uncompromising stance on illegal immigrants during the primaries alienated many Latino voters, and recent controversies over rape and contraception have not helped win undecided female voters to the Republicans' side. But every vote counts—especially in hotly contested Florida, with a Latino population that is more conservative than in other states. And to that end, Ann Romney may prove a potent weapon in the struggle for small slices of those blocs.
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At the Latino Coalition luncheon, she had high praise for the first lady of Puerto Rico, Luce Fortuno, who had introduced her to the convention Tuesday night. “It was my wish that she introduce me because I felt like we are a bit of kindred spirits,” said Romney. “Luce is a great mother of sons, by the way. She has a great vitality of energy and passion for life. I recognized that in her, and we became friends for life. What she and her husband are doing on that little island is quite remarkable and you should be very proud.”
She fondly recalled her campaign visit to Puerto Rico last March before the territory’s primary.
“I have to tell you, I had the most rocking time in Puerto Rico at a political rally that I have ever had in my entire life,” said Romney. “You people know how to party. It was crazy. It was a wonderful chance to peek into a culture, and vibrancy and energy and passion that I saw from that little island – that is really what represents the best of America. It is what you give to this country. A vibrancy. A color. A fabric of family and joy that anyone that’s near your community recognizes that and feels it just coming from you.”
Romney had already been to two events in the morning, a women’s breakfast, where one of her daughters-in-law praised her as a “feminist.” She also visited a children’s hospital.
In a pink dress the color of cotton candy, she bore no signs of fatigue or strain from the night before, which must have been stressful, given that analysts said so much was riding on her speech.
“How about that speech last night?” said her son, Craig, a phrase that is sure to be repeated wherever she goes Wednesday. “She hit it out of the park.”
As they often do, the Romneys, mere et fils, reminisced about how Ann managed to raised her quintet of terribly naughty boys with her humor intact. At the Latino Coalition lunch, Craig Romney recounted that when he was a toddler, his mother left him with two of his teenage brothers while she ran errands.
While she was gone, Craig climbed up to the top of the kitchen cupboard, discovered his favorite Marshmallow Fluff spread and began eating it with his hands. His brothers discovered him, removed his shirt and smeared the sticky stuff all over him.
“My mom gets home to this scene, her baby covered in Marshmallow Fluff – a complete mess,” said Craig. “You would think she would just break down, but what does she do? She smiles and poses for a photo.” (At the Women for Mitt fundraising breakfast Wednesday morning, where some of Ann Romney’s daughters-in-law spoke about her, the photo was included in the family’s Mother’s Day video montage. It shows Ann Romney holding Craig, whose face is slathered by the white spread.)
As a grandmother, said Ann, she has taken sweet revenge. “There is no greater joy than watching his children misbehave. I look at him and think, ‘Oh, you deserve it.’”
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Last night, she said, “I spoke to women. I wanted women to understand how important this election is for their children. As I was sitting backstage, I was thinking how important for the Latino community this election is. They are mistaken if they think they are going to be better off with Barack Obama as president. The simplest way I can say this, if Mitt Romney wins, America wins.”
She said she isn’t sure what her husband plans to say on Thursday, as he continually revises his speech.