Ann Romney: an enigmatic first lady-in-waiting (+video)
Ann Romney can seem at turns warmly gracious and wholly out of touch. But she's tough – a steel forged by her deep love for her family and her husband – and that should be on full display Tuesday night as she addresses the Republican National Convention.
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She shows no visible signs of her illness these days, though she has said she works hard to limit campaign appearances and get the rest and nutrition she needs. A brief flare-up around Super Tuesday was a wakeup call to be careful.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures The Republican Convention 2012
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Her battle not to let MS – or the breast cancer that was diagnosed and successfully treated – get the better with her was, in many ways, a very Mormon reaction, says Scott.
“Originally, when [Romney] got MS people said that’s it for Mitt’s career because they’re so tight, he’ll stay home and take care of her and they’ll fade into oblivion. But they chose the opposite tack: Let’s conquer this and get on,” he says. “It’s a Mormon thing. You bury your burdens and smile and move forward.”
But if Romney has morphed into more of an asset to her husband’s political career than she was back in 1994, she still sometimes makes missteps – and can come across less as the warm presence her friends describe than a privileged woman who thinks her family is a step above everyone else.
There’s the business of dressage – which provides “dancing horse” images, stories about the $77,000 “business loss” claimed on the Romneys' 2010 tax returns due to her horses, and endless fodder for Stephen Colbert.
There are the occasionally off-key comments, as when she told ABC News in April that “it’s our turn now” for the presidency, or later, when she told ABC News, in response to queries about her husband’s refusal to release more tax returns, that “we’ve given all you people need to know” about their finances.
“She’s heading in the direction of being a liability to the campaign,” says one longtime acquaintance of the family, who asked that his name be withheld.
“She is as loyal as can be, and as nurturing as can be to her family, and values them more than life itself; it’s an endearing quality,” he adds. “But her weakness is the flip side of that: We’re at one level, then there’s the next level…. It comes across as demeaning to others.”
Scott, the Romney biographer, recounts a time when a Romney daughter-in-law had just moved to Boston with her new husband and was looking for work at the ad agency where Scott’s wife worked. Scott's wife was ready to offer her a job, when she got a call from the head of the agency, who had just heard from Mrs. Romney.
“Even though the kids were making this happen on their own, Ann wanted to make sure the deal got closed,” says Scott. Later, Mr. and Mrs. Romney also let it be known they thought their daughter-in-law’s salary was too low.
“There’s this almost guileless sense of entitlement and being willing to speak their minds that’s both annoying and refreshing at the same time,” says Scott.
As first lady of Massachusetts, Romney kept a low profile, giving few public appearances. Near the end of his tenure, Mitt Romney gave his wife a position as an unpaid liaison for federal faith-based initiatives.
But her rising role in the 2012 campaign seems to indicate a willingness to be somewhat more prominent, should her husband win.
In interviews, Romney has expressed admiration for first ladies such as Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan, and Mamie Eisenhower, and said she could envision using her role to be an advocate for children and those who suffer from MS.
“I would think she’d be somewhat of a cross between a Michelle Obama and a Laura Bush,” says Scott. “I actually think she will be an activist in some areas,… once the dust settles.”