First Ladies in Waiting
ure, it’s fun to hate her. She’s a dance mom to a high-priced horse. She crowed about her “real marriage” to Mitt during her RNC speech, which would count as a homophobic dog whistle if it weren’t loud enough for everyone to hear. She wears thousand-dollar t-shirts and still manages to dress like a modern-day June Cleaver. And this Fall she’s taken to saying bafflingly tone-deaf things to reporters, like that she has “concern” for her husband’s “mental well-being” should he actually have to serve as president.
But all snark aside, why should we care about Ann Romney? The answers may seem obvious: If her husband is elected, she’ll surely have the ear of the President of the United States in ways most cabinet members only dream of. She provides a window into a strange and often inscrutable candidate. And of course, the campaign has designated her a surrogate, so who are we to argue?
But none of these answers stand up to scrutiny. Governors and Senators often have wives who surely influence them in myriad ways. As for giving us insight into the candidate, what exactly do we learn from Ann Romney about Mitt, except that he seems capable of human emotion toward her, and that neither one of them is in possession of a particularly fine-tuned political ear?
It’s true that the campaign has been pushing her as a surrogate, even writing confidential memos about how best to deploy her. The same is true of Michelle Obama, who’s been a popular and effective spokesperson for her husband since the 2008 campaign. I’m far from immune to her charms. Whether she’s doing the dougie with schoolchildren, digging in the White Hourse garden, or giving hilarious side-eye to her daughters during the president’s speech at the DNC, I’m almost always happier for a bit of our First Lady. And I’m sure that’s the idea. If you like someone’s spouse or partner, don’t you like them a little better, too? First Ladies have become the hammer in presidential campaigns’ likability toolbox.