TAMPA, Fla. — Five years, six months, plus a few days ago, on Feb. 13, 2007, Mitt Romney first publicly announced he wanted to be president. On Tuesday night, he heard GOP delegates shouting his name.
It was a big night for Romney, made bigger by his wife Ann, who delivered the most anticipated speech of the week — save the one from Romney himself, coming on Thursday.
‘No One Will Care More…’
Never has the speech of the wife of a presidential candidate been so anticipated. Ann Romney was there at the Republican National Convention Tuesday night to tell the country that behind the guy who seems to have a hard time connecting with strangers is a caring man who will work hard to solve the nation’s problems.
“His name is Mitt Romney, and you should really get to know him,” Ann Romney said.
Romney read her speech from teleprompters, but demonstrating complete confidence in her first address to millions of people, she began with off-the-cuff remarks acknowledging another major event on the first night of the Republicans’ big party in Tampa.
“Just so you all know, [Hurricane Isaac] has hit landfall, and I think we should all take this moment and recognize that fellow Americans are in its path,” Ann Romney said.
Standing in the aisle between the Massachusetts and the New Hampshire delegations — the two that know Mitt Romney best — you could hear Ann Romney’s gentle humor resonating with the delegates.
“In the storybooks I read, there never were long, long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once, and those storybooks never seemed to have a chapter called MS or breast cancer,” Ann Romney said, referring to her own struggles with multiple sclerosis and cancer. “A storybook marriage? No. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage.”
Ann Romney turned from talking about her husband the family man to her husband the tireless worker.
“No one will care more and no one will move heaven and earth like Mitt Romney to make this country a better place to live,” she said.
And Ann Romney circled back to talking about her husband as a man reticent to tout his good deeds. “This is important,” she said. “I want you to hear what I’m going to say. Mitt doesn’t like to talk about what he’s done for others, because he sees it as a privilege, not a political talking point.”
The Room’s Reaction
And that is why it was such an important political talking point for Ann Romney to make. Clearly she won over the room. For Massachusetts state Rep. Elizabeth Poirier, who has worked with Mitt Romney, Ann Romney’s speech pulled together the convention hall behind her husband.
“She’s an absolute natural at speaking,” Poirier said. “She spoke from the heart, and it was exactly what everybody wanted to hear.”
But what about the millions of people who Tuesday were just beginning to tune in to the Romneys? Evan Kenney, the youngest Massachusetts delegate and a Ron Paul supporter, thought he was a pretty good example of the kind of person Ann Romney had to win over.
“Well, I didn’t know much about Gov. Romney, ’cause I’m 18 years old, so when he was governor, I think I was like in middle school, or something,” Kenney said. “Ms. Romney definitely humanized Mitt Romney. I think that’s a great thing, because a lot of people think of him as this big rich man. I think she did a great job pointing out that Gov. Romney doesn’t want to use the fact that he’s a very charitable man to advance himself politically.”
Mitt Romney himself was clearly moved by his wife’s speech. He joined her on stage at its conclusion, his eyes so full of tears that they were red, welling with emotion at the testimony his wife had just offered and the reception from the crowd that had nominated him hours earlier, finally, after five years of seeking the nomination, and so many more preparing for it.