DORAL, Fla. - In the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Callista Gingrich is the silent partner.
Ann Romney is anything but.
The wife of Mitt Romney has latched on to her surrogacy role with zeal, providing potent testimony to her husband’s character.
Gingrich stands silently beside her husband as he makes his case for himself.
The contrast was evident on Friday outside Miami, when Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich gave back-to-back speeches at a meeting of the Hispanic Leadership Network.
Gingrich came on stage accompanied by his wife, who remained by his side throughout the former House speaker’s entire 25-minute speech, smiling and nodding, perfectly coiffed and attired.
Newt and Callista Gingrich
Less than an hour later, a bubbling Ann Romney came on stage with not only her husband but also the youngest of her five sons, Craig, and one of her 16 grandchildren, five-year-old Parker.
If it wasn’t an overt contrast with Gingrich, who has been married three times and faced sordid allegations recently from his second wife, it wasn’t exactly a subtle one, either.
After Craig Romney stroked the Hispanic crowd with remarks in Spanish and Parker Romney triggered a chorus of “ooohs” by leaning into the microphone to say, “Hola!,” Mitt Romney stood with a smile on his face as his wife also addressed the crowd.
After her remarks, Ann Romney left the stage so her husband could handle his political chores alone.
To say she has come a long way as a public figure is an understatement for anyone who recalls her retreat from the spotlight after a Globe profile during her husband’s 1994 US Senate race contained anecdotes that embarrassed her.
Ann Romney is now in good health after battles with multiple sclerosis and breast cancer.
And she brims with a confidence built over her husband’s stint running the 2002 Winter Olympics, four years as Massachusetts governor, and during both his failed 2008 run for president and the current campaign that has him the frontrunner for the 2012 GOP nomination.
Whereas Newt Gingrich talks repeatedly about what “Callista and I” think, Ann Romney speaks for herself. What she says has impact, too.
Each speech always contains a reference to her challenge raising her sons, and how when her husband would hear her the exasperation in her voice as he called home from business trips, he would tell her, “Just remember, your job is more important than mine."
She said the comment made her feel like an equal partner in their marriage, and enjoy the hard-earned spoils of her family all the more today.
Ann Romney’s speech Friday, though, was especially pointed.
Should her husband face President Obama in the general election, she has the makings of a worthy counterpoint to the widely popular first lady Michelle Obama.
“I will tell you that four years ago, I was definite about one thing: I would never do this again. And I can’t even tell you how much I really meant that. And Mitt laughed, and said, ‘You say that after every pregnancy.’
“And all the women out there know what I’m talking about.
“And yet, a year ago, when we were making the final decision about whether we were going to go forward or not, I obviously had a change of heart.
“And I asked Mitt one thing. And I said, ‘Look, no one’s going to know who you’re really going to run against. I have no idea who the other candidates are going to be, what even all the issues are going to be by the time we’re really going to come down to it.
“‘But I only have one question to ask you: If you can get through his whole process and you can finally be the president, I need you to answer me this one question: ‘Can you fix it?’’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ That’s all I need to know.
“And so I threw aside all those arguments I made about never running again and say, ‘You know what? It’s worth it. This country’s worth it.’
“And what needs to be done needs to be done by somebody who knows how to do it. You can’t have someone turn something around if they’re never turned around anything before.
“You can’t have someone run an organization if they’ve never run an organization before. We tried that the last time, with someone that didn’t have any experience. And how is that working?
“...Mitt has exhibited his whole life an ability to figure out the core of the problem and then figure out how to fix it, and it isn’t just having the answer, it’s then implementing it that’s the hard work, and I think that’s what’s going to be hard in the next phase, too.
“So, I have all the confidence in the world that this guy is going to be a great president, and we need everybody in this country to understand that as well as I do.”Glen Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.