Ann Romney was trying to accomplish several things in her speech Tuesday night at the GOP Convention, none of them easy. Mitt is doing fine with married women, but he trails woefully with unmarried female voters. So it wasn’t surprising when she spoke directly to women, moms in particular, saying that, “You are the best of America.” Voters don’t trust either candidate to fix the economy, so Ann made her case to those who are struggling to get ahead, and she came across as genuine.
But when she told us she was there to “talk to you about love,” I got a little nervous. Ann Romney is no stranger to the campaign trail and she’s a seasoned public speaker: a warm and likable one at that. I didn’t want her to address abortion or the national debt, necessarily, but was she really going to spend 30 minutes telling us how and she and Mitt made googly eyes at a high-school dance?
On one level, it makes sense: Every candidate’s wife is there to smooth out his rough edges, to balance out her husband’s weaknesses. Wives are supposed to “humanize” their ambitious, driven husbands. Given the jokes that Mitt is a robot, given that his, erm, nuanced views on everything from abortion to health care to immigration make him look opportunistic, has any political wife faced such a daunting task? Ann certainly went beyond their courtship, but her speech spent considerable time on their humble beginnings, about the long hours Mitt put in starting Bain (note that she was careful not to mention the company’s name), about being a young mother.
She wasn’t just trying to humanize her husband, she was trying to make us love him. That’s a tall order. I’m the rare conservative who will admit to sorta kinda actually liking ol’ Mitt, not just tolerating him, but even I was left wanting a little more from Ann’s speech. There are some wonderful Mitt Romney stories out there: the time a daughter of a Bain partner went missing after a rave and Mitt shut down the entire company and brought everyone to New York to find her (they did, and just barely in time); the time he and two sons saved a family on a lake in New Hampshire when the family’s boat started sinking. And I know you don’t tell those stories on a national stage, because it would be viewed as crass exploitation. But surely there are some anecdotes that lie somewhere between strapping the family dog to the car and saving someone’s life. And surely there must be something he’s done as a leader, whether in business or government or saving the Olympics, that would both speak to his accomplishments and inspire some needed affection.
Ann did get specific when she mentioned some of Mitt’s accomplishments as governor. You could see the crowd perking up when she said, “This is the man America needs.” She had them in the palm of her hand by the time she got to the line “This man will not fail.”
Had she just promised us that “This man will lift up America!” and stopped, and thanked the crowd, she’d have ended on a powerful note. Instead, she reminded us one more time that she loves Mitt, and Mitt loves America. That’s all fine and good, because we need Mitt to love America. And we need him to do the job he’s promised to do. But we don’t need to love him.