The XX Factor

Campaign Love Notes: Ann Romney Steps In It

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with his wife Ann Romney 

Photograph by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Lately it seems as if a day does not go by when one campaign or another does not send us a token of their affection, an outraged, chivalrous defense, an affectionate speech, sometimes even a whole initiative! But we “women” are not so easily impressed. For the rest of the campaign we will evaluate these missives and give them a final rating from 1-10 on the SwoonMeter.

Today Ann Romney gave an I’m-about-to-choke-up-any-minute speech on motherhood and campaigning before 800 GOP activists in Connecticut. The press have already labeled it the “first post-Hilary Rosen” speech after the flap in which Rosen, the Democratic activists, might have said something mean about stay-at-home-moms but really didn’t. Romney explained that for much of her life as a mother she was actually very busy “doing the laundry, doing the grocery shopping, doing the cooking” and that those things are actually work despite what some people say. She added that she did not get any actual help until she had an operation after giving birth to her fifth child and even then it was only a “little extra help.”

INTENT: Romney is conveying that she has been as harried and frustrated as any one of those people on an infomercial about busted products. She mentions many mundane details like waking up in the middle of the night with a sick child and the groceries disappearing an hour after you bought them and “what it’s like to finish the laundry and look in the basket five minutes later and it’s full again.” Not just moms, either. She even mentions “the men in this room too that are raising kids.”

EXECUTION: Just after mentioning dads, Romney said this sentence: “I love the fact that there are also women out there that don’t have a choice and they must go to work and they still have to raise the kids,” she said. “Thank goodness that we value those people too. And sometimes life isn’t easy for any of us.” Like Hilary Rosen, she did not mean what she said. She does not “love the fact” that some women have no choice but to work when they do not want to. She loves the women, not their absence of choices. Also, the unfortunate use of “those people”—why don’t rich politicians train themselves to banish that phrase? In this case it’s even worse, because you can’t use “those people” and “life isn’t easy for any of us” in successive sentences. Which is it, “us” or me versus “those people”? Garbled sentence plus haughty construction means she loses major points for execution. Also, Republicans have not been that great when it comes to demonstrating their love for working moms, in a practical way. 

RELATABILITY: I do not understand rich people who do not hire help. Why would you do that? Why would you have five children and no help at all? Seems like some strange form of martyrdom. Couldn’t she have gotten someone to help her a little with that laundry? Hired an au pair? Especially since she has a husband who does not even really change diapers.