The XX Factor

Ann Romney Attempts to Humanize the Mitt-Bot

Mitt Romney gestures as his wife Ann looks on after he was endorsed by NJ Governor Chris Christie on October 11, 2011 in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As we get increasingly sick of the actual Republican candidates after their umpteenth GOP debate, their spouses are emerging to campaign on their behalf. Typically, it’s a potential first lady’s job to counter negative images of their husband. In Michelle Obama’s case, she tried to make the cerebral, untouchable Barack seem more like an average joe, telling Glamour back in 2008 that he snored and had morning breath. Callista Gingrich has the seemingly herculean task of making her formerly-philandering husband seem godly and moral. Ann Romney has a similar, but not identical task to Michelle Obama: She’s trying to make Mitt seem less stiff, and more fun (and not strapping-the-puppy-to-the-roof-of-the-car kind of fun). And so Ann Romney told a group of female supporters in Iowa on Friday that “Mitt is not what you think at home. He is my most disobedient child…He likes to play jokes. He likes to always have a light moment.”

Ann Romney also emphasized Mitt’s support of her during her various illnesses: She has Multiple Sclerosis and has had breast cancer. “He’s steadfast. You can count on him. He won’t abandon you in the hardest times,” Ann said. While this might soften Mitt (not abandoning your wife when she’s sick seems like a pretty baseline obligation for a husband), mentioning this serves another purpose. It’s a subtle reminder of Newt Gingrich’s checkered marital past. Gingrich, if you’ll recall, divorced his first wife when she was recovering from a bout of uterine cancer.

I’m not sure that this dog whistle is enough to help her husband’s campaign. My hunch is that Ann Romney is going to have to up the personal disclosures if she wants to crack that laquered image that most people have of her husband. She’s already got a lot of what Americans expect from a first lady: She was a stay-at-home mom who raised five kids. Contrast that with high-powered Harvard Law grad Michelle Obama, who had to undertake a “momification” to get Americans to like her better. I predict at least two People Magazine covers in Ann Romney’s future, ones that are even more specific, intimate and revealing than her first attempt at Mitt humanization circa 2007: “Ann Romney Opens Up.”