August 28, 2012

Ann Romney says her husband will lift up America

"You can trust Mitt. He loves America," Mrs. Romney says in a prime-time speech at the Republican National Convention.

Meet Mitt Romney's sweetheart.

click image to enlarge

Ann Romney, wife of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

click image to enlarge

Ann Romney, wife of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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Making her national debut, Ann Romney swept onto the stage at the Republican National Convention late Tuesday night and delivered a forceful defense of her husband's character and values — and made an all-out play for the critical women's vote — in a speech designed to introduce the country to the man she knows better than anyone.

"I love you women! And I hear your voices," she said, wearing a red, belted dress as black-and-white photos of her family flashed on a giant screen above her head.

She touched on her struggles with multiple sclerosis and breast cancer. She defended her husband's work ethic, saying, "I can tell you Mitt Romney was not handed success." And she told the crowd about what she says she has learned about her husband after 43 years of marriage.

"This man will not fail," she said, as the crowd in Tampa Bay Times Forum erupted with cheers and gave her a sustained standing ovation.

Her pitch was aimed squarely at women who are raising families. "If you listen carefully, you'll hear the women sighing a little bit more than the men. It's how it is, isn't it?" she said. "It's the moms who always have to work a little harder, to make everything right."

And Mrs. Romney defended her husband's wild success in business, offering a character testimonial to counter Democratic attack ads that have worked to paint her husband as wealthy and out-of-touch.

"Mitt doesn't like to talk about how he has helped others because he sees it as a privilege, not a political talking point," she said. "And we're no different than the millions of Americans who quietly help their neighbors, their churches and their communities. They don't do it so that others will think more of them. They do it because there is no greater joy."

The goal of her carefully crafted speech: Help people understand the warm, personal side of her husband, a longtime candidate who has sometimes struggled to connect with voters — and who isn't nearly as well-liked as his opponent, Democratic President Barack Obama.

"Tonight, I want to talk to you about love," Mrs. Romney said.

The woman whom Romney often introduces as "my sweetheart, Ann Romney!" has played the role of humanizer for months now. Together, she and Mitt Romney have five children and 18 grandchildren who range in age from 16 years to just a few months old. She has appeared onstage often with her husband, who's obviously more at ease when she's by his side.

They met in high school, kept in touch while he served as a Mormon missionary in France, married young and had five children. On Tuesday, she emphasized how their struggles shaped their relationship.

"I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a 'storybook marriage,'" she told the crowd. "Those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or breast cancer. A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage."

Mrs. Romney has never appeared before a crowd the size of the one gathered at the convention. The speech was viewed as so critical by the campaign that it moved her appearance, originally scheduled for Monday, a day later after the networks announced they wouldn't cover the first evening's events live.

"I've never gone off a written text. So this is a unique experience for me," Mrs. Romney said as she and her husband flew from Bedford, Mass., near their home, to Tampa on Tuesday morning.

(Continued on page 2)

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