TAMPA – Laurie Romney was at the Romney household years ago when she was in the kitchen and spied a perfect-looking peach pie on the counter, complete with a carefully-constructed lattice top.
“I literally thought to myself, ‘I cannot marry into this family,’ ” she said on Wednesday morning. “Because I could never do that.”
During a tribute to the potential future first lady on Wednesday morning, all five of Ann Romney’s daughters-in-law took the microphone for brief remarks. It was a rare instance where they were in the public eye, in a week when their husbands are frequently the ones on television.
“I was nervous and I was intimidated by their family,” confessed Laurie Romney, who married second-oldest-son Matt.
It’s a feeling that the Romney campaign is now eager to dispel for the country, hoping to make American voters feel as though Romney – and his family -- are just like them. Throughout the campaign, Romney has struggled to forge an emotional connection with voters, and has been repeatedly criticized for how he earned his wealth.
But during the convention, his campaign advisers are hoping that by showcasing his family life he can come across in softer ways. On Tuesday night, Ann Romney energized the convention hall with a 20-minute speech that was designed to highlight a more nuanced view of her husband.
“By the time I get to town, the delegates may have decided to nominate Ann instead – and wouldn’t that be interesting?” Mitt Romney said on Wednesday morning, via taped remarks that aired during the Women for Romney event. “Do you think if Ann were the nominee, the press would write stories about how my job is to humanize Ann? I don’t think so. But seriously…”
Ann Romney is likely to play a prominent role during the coming weeks of the race, according to campaign advisers who were almost giddy with her performance Tuesday night. They are trying to balance how much to have her on the campaign trail alone, and how much with Mitt Romney, who is often a smoother campaigner when she is by his side. They are also aware of her multiple sclerosis, and don’t want to overtire her with too many events.
“A lot of America discovered Ann last night,” said Ron Kaufman, a longtime Romney adviser. “She continues to be, as she always has been, a valuable asset to the campaign.”
Over the past several days, the five Romney sons have made numerous appearances on television, talking about their parents and helping portray a lighter side to their father. But Wednesday morning, during a fundraiser breakfast at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, it was the daughters-in-law who spoke out, sometimes in surprising ways.
“The one thing I really love about Ann is she’s a really modern feminist,” Andelyne Romney said. “She’s kind of the 21st Century woman. She is so comfortable in her own skin and I promise, that’s for real.”
A stay-at-home mom wanting to go back to school, she said she has learned from Ann Romney “anything is possible.”
“Whenever I’m having trouble communicating with my husband, I tend to channel Ann,” she added. ”And it works really, really well.”
Laurie – who confessed that she once couldn’t make macaroni and cheese from a box -- said Ann Romney took her under her wing and taught her how to cook, how to support her husband, and “to not always weigh him down with all of the little hard things that happened during the day but to be positive.”
“From her I have learned not only to cook, but to shop for heels, to decorate a home,” said Mary Romney. “I only hope that one day that my boys respect and love me half as much as my husband and his brothers respect and love their mother. You should hear my husband pray for his mom, and her health. They adore her and that is really the biggest tribute to any woman.”
Jen Romney, who married Josh, recounted going into labor during her first pregnancy late at night on Christmas Eve. She told one of the brothers – whom she did not name, and who she said still denies her account – to alert the rest of the family that they had gone to the hospital.
In the morning, they called Mitt Romney to ask why Ann and he had not come to join them at the hospital.
“He goes, ‘What? Nobody told us!’ He’s like, ‘We were waiting for you to wake up to open presents with us,’ ” Jen Romney said. “Being a man, he said, ‘Well, get back home. That baby’s not coming anytime soon. Labor takes forever!’ We’re like, ‘No, she’s coming soon.’ ”
Jen said that Ann Romney – who spent the entire previous day cooking and baking -- then brought the whole family to the hospital.
“And they have Christmas dinner at the vending machine, waiting for the baby – for my baby Grace – to come,” Jen said. “I love her so much. I love her like my own mom. And I was so proud of her last night. I just, I love that woman.”
They kidded each other over whose husband was better looking. “As my grandma always says, he’s the cutest Romney boy out of all five,” Laurie Romney said of Matt. “I disagree with Laurie,” said Jen Romney. “I think I’m married to the cutest one of all. I’m married to Josh. Yeah, Josh!”
Mary Romney, who married Craig, noted, “I am married to the baby of the family, Craig.”
“I’m married to the blond one,” said Andelyne Romney, who married Ben. “The one that stands out. That kind of resembles Ann, and I call the smart one.”
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.