Anne Romney takes stage to humanize her husband

Because of her multiple sclerosis, Ann Romney doesn’t have the campaign-trail stamina of First Lady Michelle Obama. In March, she had a flare-up of the autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system.

When she speaks with someone, Ann Romney focuses on her subject with the intensity of a mother skilled in keeping a child’s attention.

That maternal presence — and her experience with raising five sons — has helped her connect with average voters in a way that comes less naturally for her husband, Mitt Romney.

Her challenge last night at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. — her biggest stage yet — was to humanize her husband for Americans who haven’t so far found him very likable. She needed to show that he’s more than a former private equity executive who’s good with numbers, and that he cares about their needs.

“A spouse can really personalize him,” said Dianne Bystrom, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University in Ames. “She needs to talk to the American public in a personal way about what she sees in Mitt Romney, as a husband and a father.”

Ann Romney said yesterday that she has worked hard to craft her remarks. She spent much of the flight to Tampa huddled with advisers, refining the speech. After practicing Monday in a New Hampshire high school, she baked hundreds of Welsh cakes, a British teatime sweet beloved by her husband.

Gender gap

» Women, who represent 52 percent of the U.S. electorate, are a crucial group in every presidential election, and polling shows President Barack Obama with a significant advantage among female voters. They prefer Obama over Romney by an eight-percentage- point margin, according to Gallup daily tracking polls conducted July 30 through Aug. 19.

» The existence of Romney’s gender gap has received renewed focus in recent days after Todd Akin said that “legitimate rape” rarely leads to pregnancy and so abortion shouldn’t be allowed in rape cases.



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