Delegates wave signs during Ann Romney's speech at the Republican… (Mark Boster, Los Angeles…)
TAMPA, Fla. — It was a powerful, unscripted moment. Ann Romney, resplendent in red, looked out from the podium Tuesday night and practically shouted, "I love you women!"
It was as if she knew in her bones that this was the message she needed to convey, so why not just say it?
A day later, it's too early to know whether her words succeeded in narrowing the considerable gender gap that plagues her husband, Mitt Romney, the newly minted Republican presidential nominee. But most observers agreed that she accomplished two important goals: connecting to average women who may have known only that she is rich and rides horses, and helping her husband seem warmer and more relatable than he does on TV.
"I can't think of a thing she could have done any better," said Republican strategist Mark McKinnon. "Her job was to humanize her husband, and it was hard to watch that speech and not come away with a better impression of Mitt Romney. She gave him dimension and compassion. And made him real. She connected. Big time."
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That, said another expert, may not be enough.
"She comes across as very likable, very real," said political scientist Susan Carroll of Rutgers University's Center for American Women and Politics. "But the challenge for the campaign is that her husband doesn't."
In the afterglow of her speech, it was a relaxed and happy — and even pugnacious — Ann Romney who hit the campaign trail Wednesday. At a breakfast fundraiser, "Women for Mitt," each of her five daughters-in-law shared the impact she's had on their lives, according to ABC News.
"One thing I really love about Ann is she's really a modern feminist," said Andelynne Romney, married to Ben Romney, a physician. "She's kind of the 21st century woman. She is so comfortable in her own skin, and I promise that's for real."
At noon, Romney visited with Latino officials and entrepreneurs, with her youngest son, Craig, who has made Spanish-language radio and TV spots for the campaign.
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As the granddaughter and daughter of Welsh immigrants, she said, she understands what it's like to leave a country for a better life. And her husband, she said, understands "how to make an economic engine thrive." She urged Republican Latinos to spread the message.
"I feel that my importance in speaking out is making sure that those coalitions that would naturally be voting for another party wake up and say, 'You better really look at the issues this time, really look at your future and decide who is the guy who is going to make it better for your community and your children,'" Romney said.
Latinos would appreciate her husband's message, she said, "if they could just get past some of their biases that have been there from the Democratic machines that have made us look like we don't care about this community, and that is not true. We very much care about you and your families and the opportunities that are there for you."
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With the governor of Puerto Rico in the audience — his wife introduced her to delegates Tuesday before her speech — Romney fondly recalled her campaign visit to "that little island" in March. "I had the most rocking time in Puerto Rico at a political rally that I have ever had in my entire life," Romney said. "You people know how to party."
Even if Romney doesn't energize traditionally Democratic-voting coalitions, said political scientist Susan MacManus of the University of South Florida, her speech "was a giant first step that allows her to now go out and make pitches to women voters, draw big crowds and energize conservative women voters. I think Republicans realize they have got to get those conservative women to the polls."