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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

In Speech, Ann Romney Plays to the Heart


Ann Romney introduced her husband Tuesday night to the nation and to the Republican Party that had nominated him as president with a rousing speech that exhorted Americans, “You can trust Mitt.”

“This man will not fail. This man will not let us down. This man will lift up America,” she told the Republican National Convention to a series of sustained ovations, capped by the emergence of Mitt Romney from behind the stage for a quick, chaste kiss and the nominee's first acknowledgment of the convention.

Mrs. Romney used her prime-time speech to try to take some of the sheen off her husband's glossy image and to humanize Mr. Romney with the very real struggles he has faced with determination and inevitable success.

“I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a ‘storybook marriage,'” she said. “Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once. And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters on M.S. or breast cancer.”

“A storybook marriage? Nope, not at all,” she said. “What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage.”

But despite her pledge to avoid politics and speak to the nation about love, Mrs. Romney hit most of the themes that her husband and his party have used to best President Obama: a flailing economy; struggling Americans, especially women; and a choice voters must make between failure and something new.

“We're too smart to know there aren't easy answers, but we're not dumb enough to accept that there aren't better answers,” she said.

Mrs. Romney entered the hall with a difficult but critical tas k: Transfer some of her innate likability to her husband, who even Republicans readily concede lacks a natural bonhomie.

“The warmth just doesn't come out” on television, said Representative Brett Guthrie, Republican of Kentucky, who spent time with Mr. Romney for the first time two weeks ago and professed surprised at how nice he was.

Many delegates gathered in the convention hall said they didn't care if their nominee was “warm and fuzzy,” as Donna Hamilton, 64, a Washington State delegate put it. But more professional politicians in the audience, like Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa, said the entire Romney family has this week to soften the nominee's edges and make him more accessible to independent and undecided voters.

Many of the struggles Mrs. Romney detailed were not so much his, but hers and his father's. She has multiple sclerosis and battled through breast cancer. The bootstrap section of the address belonged to George Romney, Mitt's father w ho, she reminded viewers, “never graduated from college,” and instead “became a carpenter” and slogged his way to head a car company, then governor of Michigan.

But she did extol the determination of her husband.

“At every turn in his life, this man I met at a high school dance, has helped lift up others,” she said. “He did it with the Olympics, when many wanted to give up. This is the man who will wake up every day with the determination to solve the problems that others say can't be solved, to fix what others say is beyond repair. This is the man who will work harder than anyone so that we can work a little less hard.”

In a striking red dress, she walked out to a thunderous standing ovation. Pictures of a young Mr. Romney and his family were projected behind her. And the images of family ran throughout a speech overtly geared to women. For the moment, Mr. Romney's deficit with women has kept him tied or marginally behind Mr. Obama in most national polls. Tightening the gender gap is the key to a Romney victory in November.

“I love you, women,” she shouted.

And she tried to set up a firewall against Democratic attacks on her husband's time at Bain Capital and the wealth he has amassed.

“Let's be honest, if the last four years had been successful, do we really think we'd be seeing these attacks on Mitt's success?” she asked.