Maybe it’s a maternal thing. But we couldn’t help but sympathize somewhat when we heard Ann Romney’s latest attempt to defend her husband from his Republican critics, who have been vacillating between morose and merciless.
Yes, we know, Mitt isn’t Ann’s son. But there was something about the way she snapped “Stop it” that called to mind nothing so much as a mom who’s “had it up to here” with the snide comments being lobbed from the backseat.
In an interview with Radio Iowa Thursday, Mrs. Romney tried to lay down the law:
“Stop it. This is hard. You want to try it? Get in the ring. This is hard and, you know, it’s an important thing that we’re doing right now, and it’s an important election, and it is time for all Americans to realize how significant this election is and how lucky we are to have someone with Mitt’s qualifications and experience and know-how to be able to have the opportunity to run this country.”
The trouble with these comments, of course, is that they probably will give more fodder to critics who see Ann Romney as a clueless elitist. Telling Americans they just need to realize how “lucky” they are that someone as talented as her husband is willing to be their leader sounds sort of like when she told reporters that she and her husband had released “all you people need to know” when it came to their taxes. It’s got more than a whiff of noblesse oblige.
Still, as we said, it’s hard not to sympathize. For one thing, nearly everyone agrees that presidential campaigns are probably hardest on the spouses. Their schedule is nearly as brutal, but they aren’t necessarily as practiced in keeping on message. (Remember an irritated Teresa Heinz Kerry, Sen. John Kerry's wife, telling a reporter to “shove it?”)
Understandably, they also tend to take all the criticism more personally – particularly when it comes from would-be allies.
During the GOP primary campaign, Anita Perry, wife of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, got teary at an event with voters and confessed that it had been “a rough month,” after her husband had come under fire for some poor debate performances (and this was before the infamous “oops” moment). "We are being brutalized by our opponents, and our own party," she said.
What’s most interesting about Mrs. Romney’s comments is that – besides revealing just how difficult the past few weeks have been for the Romney family – she also may have inadvertently hit on the biggest factor behind her husband’s current predicament: He was never the party’s first choice, but no one else wanted to “get in the ring.”
It’s no secret that Mitt Romney has never been beloved by conservatives. The GOP nominated him because, to be blunt, he was all they had – the best (by far) of a weak field. And for all the sniping now about how “if Republicans can’t win against an incumbent as weak as President Obama, with an economy as weak as this” – well, it’s worth remembering that a whole line of potential A-list candidates, from Jeb Bush to Chris Christie to Marco Rubio, took a look at these same conditions and decided to pass.
So, Republicans can bemoan Romney’s “incompetent” campaign and his “tin-eared” candidacy. And we’re not saying they’re wrong. But on some level, his wife is also right: Running for president is hard. And Romney was willing to take a shot, when other party leaders were not.