Romney Deploys Wife to Reassure Women Voters
If you think Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney aren't worried about the growing blowback from the GOP's nationwide crusade against women's reproductive rights, just ask their wives. This week, Karen Santorum emerged from her low-profile (and ironic past) to declare her husband is "completely supportive of women" and that "women have nothing to fear when it comes to contraceptives." Meanwhile, Ann Romney has been deployed as a human shield for her husband to deliver the message that "Women care about the economy, they care about their children, and they care about the debt."
Of course, American women can be forgiven their suspicions as Ann Romney tries to deflect attention from her husband's hard-right shift on reproductive rights. After all, ten years before Mrs. Romney tried to brush off her husband's Etch-a-Sketch positions on the issues, she reassured the women of Massachusetts that Mitt would protect their right to choose.
As the headlines suggest ("Romney Using Wife's Story to Connect with Voters", "Ann Romney Adds Personal Touch to Mitt's Campaign", "The Ann Romney Advantage"), Ann has provided her often robotic husband with a thin veneer of authenticity, compassion and basic human emotion voters detect he so obviously lacks. And while she may not "consider myself wealthy," she does present herself as expert on what American women are concerned about. On Super Tuesday, she revealed she had heard from women "all across this country":
"Do you know what women care about -- and this is what I love -- women care about jobs. Women care about the economy, they care about their children, and they care about the debt. And they're angry, they're furious about the entitlement debt that we're leaving our children."
At a pancake breakfast at an American Legion post in Moline, Illinois, Ann Romney announced that women are mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore:
"Is there anyone in here that is going to vote for Obama next time? Is there anybody? I mean, we're really upset. And I love it that women are upset, too, that women are talking about the economy, I love that. Women are talking about jobs, women are talking about deficit spending. Thank you, women. We need you. We all need you in November, too. We have to remember why we're upset and what we've got to do to fix things."
Of course, what a lot of women are really upset about is the stepped-up assault on their reproductive rights and personal dignity by Republican politicians. Especially ones like Mitt Romney who, along with their wives, once upon a time reassured Americans that they were pro-choice.
Running for governor of liberal Massachusetts, Mitt Romney didn't merely declare that "my agenda is different from traditional Republicans" and boast that "my views are progressive." In a TV interview, Mitt had his wife Ann make that point for him.
During his 2002 race for governor, Ann assured Massachusetts voters they need not worry about moderate Mitt protecting the right to choose:
ANN ROMNEY: I think women also recognize that they want someone who is going to manage the state well. I think they may be more nervous about him on social issues. They shouldn't be, because he's going to be just fine. But the perception is that he won't be. That's an incorrect perception.
MITT ROMNEY: So when asked will I preserve and protect a woman's right to choose, I make an unequivocal answer: yes.
(Just five years later, Ann Romney announced that Mitt "has always personally been pro-life." She added that "he did change his mind. It took courage" and claimed, "hasn't changed his position on anything except choice.")
During the '94 Senate campaign when her husband declared the death of a "dear, close family relative" from an illegal abortion inspired his formerly "unwavering" pro-choice position, Ann Romney put her money where her Mitt's mouth was. That fall of 1994, Ann and Mitt attended a Planned Parenthood event. During a time when he was trying to establish his pro-choice bona fides with liberal Massachusetts voters, Ann wrote a check for $150 to the organization. When presidential candidate Romney said in 2007 that he had "no recollection" of the fundraiser, then president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. Nichols Gamble seemed surprised:
"I can understand that he might not remember the check -- it's surprising to me that he would not remember the event. His main motivation for being there was a political motivation."
That motivation was unchanged, at least until after his successful 2002 gubernatorial campaign was over. Ten years ago, Romney pledged to Planned Parenthood in a 2002 questionnaire that he would support Roe V. Wade, emergency contraception and state funding of abortion services through Medicaid for low-income women. Now, the 2012 GOP frontrunner wants to end all federal funding for the organization and low-income women alike.
It's no wonder former Romney strategist Michael Murphy admitted of his boss in 2005, "He's been a pro-life Mormon faking it as a pro-choice friendly."
And that's something Mitt and Ann Romney want you to forget. In a January 2008 interview in Florida (around the 3:10 mark), a clearly irked Mrs. Romney brushed off a question about her contribution to Planned Parenthood:
"That was 14 years ago and $100. Do you really think I'd remember?"
Whether or not his wife Ann remembered their 1994 pandering to Planned Parenthood, Mitt Romney insisted during his first presidential campaign that it didn't matter.
"Her positions are not terribly relevant for my campaign."
Perhaps not. But her gender is another matter. Which is why Ann Romney has been traveling the country lecturing American women about their concerns, a laundry list which unsurprisingly does not include their own bodies. And when Mrs. Romney isn't releasing a video "love letter" for the couple's 43rd anniversary, she's defending husband from adviser Eric Fehrnstrom's inadvertent truth that Mitt is an Etch-a-Sketch that can be wiped clean as needed.
His wife, Ann, also rushed to her husband's defense, calling the Etch A Sketch slipup a "distraction" from the economic message her husband is trying to deliver.
She told CNN's Piers Morgan that Fehrnstrom was merely referring to "how we're going to change focus, and we're going to change, you know, what we're going to do in the organizational sense of changing. Not Mitt changing positions."
And if women voters are "more nervous about him on social issues. They shouldn't be, because he's going to be just fine."