As Election Day draws closer, both candidates for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts have stretched their reach by sending their spouses out on the campaign trail more frequently.
Gail Huff, wife of Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, and Bruce Mann, husband of Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, are holding as many — if not more — daily public events than the candidates themselves.
Stumping For Their Spouses
At a recent campaign stop at a senior center in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, Huff didn’t really need to introduce herself. Huff was a TV reporter in Boston for 17 years, and she’s clearly comfortable addressing a crowd.
“I would like to ask you today to consider my husband. I hope you will support Scott Brown,” Huff said as she met with supporters.
This summer, Huff took a leave of absence from her part-time job at a Washington, D.C., TV station to stump for her husband full-time.
“I’ve been going from 6 in the morning until 10 at night every single day, seven days a week,” she said. “My role in this is to get out and talk to people about what Scott stands for and, in some cases, set the record straight for what he doesn’t stand for.”
By contrast, Warren’s husband, Mann, is not a recognizable celebrity. He wears round glasses and favors casual wool jackets, looking like he just stepped out of a library. Mann is a Harvard law professor, like Warren. His expertise is in 18th-century bankruptcy.
At a recent visit to a senior center in Cambridge, Mann, who is tall and thin, had to stoop close to each resident to be heard in his soft voice. He prefaced some introductions by saying, “If I may…”
“If I may, I’m Bruce Mann, Elizabeth Warren’s husband. She’s running for Senate and we both live here in Cambridge. I was born in Cambridge,” he said.
Mann says he never expected to be in the spotlight. But since he’s taken some time off his teaching schedule, he’s crisscrossed the state, helping voters make a connection to Warren.
“Voters actually seem to enjoy meeting someone who is very close to Elizabeth and has known her for a very long time,” Mann said. “And they recognize that she can’t be everywhere. And at least meeting me and seeing me, it seems to give them a little bit of a connection with Elizabeth and puts a clearer face on her.”
The Spouses’ Roles
Mann doesn’t usually speak before crowds on specific issues; he leaves that up to his wife. In contrast, Huff speaks about Brown’s credentials, especially on women’s issues. Jeff Berry, a political science professor at Tufts University, says that’s an asset for Brown.
“For Sen. Brown, he has a significant problem with the women’s vote,” Berry said. “The polls, including your own, show a real gender gap with women favoring Ms. Warren, so that explains it on his side.”
On Warren’s side, Berry says her husband plays a different role.
“Elizabeth Warren has come across as a very strong individual, a real fighter, so I think bringing her husband out on the campaign trail is to soften the image a little bit,” he said.
The fact that both Mann and Huff are pressing the flesh on the campaign trail underscores the intensity of this race. And they say they’ll pick up the pace even more between now and Election Day.