As she spoke at the Republican convention flanked by pictures from her 42-year marriage, Mitt Romney's wife Ann had the audience eating out of her hand - and the rest of the world seems to have taken notice too.The speech by the slim, expertly coiffed mother of five and grandmother of 18 electrified the convention hall and has since made headlines around the globe.
In the presidential campaign in which her husband will take on Barack Obama in November, the candidates' wives will be a key focal point.Aware, perhaps, that she will be judged against the woman who has set the bar for political wives Michelle Obama, Ann, 63, was well-prepared.Prolonged ovations meant that had to stop several times as she praised her husband, repeatedly referring to him "the boy she met at a dance all those years ago".The couple married at the age of 20 after meeting as teenagers and went on to have five handsome boys named Taggart, Matthew, Joshua, Benjamin and Craig.
Remembering their romance, Ann spoke fluently and naturally, laughing often, having walked on to the stage wearing the kind of bold colour that Michelle has made her signature.The loudest applause came when she said the couple did not have a "storybook marriage" despite his support for her during her battles with ill health. "I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a 'storybook marriage'. Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once.
"And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or Breast Cancer. "A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage."Mindful of those who play up the couple's estimated $250-million fortunte as a negative, Mrs Romney also emphasised the humble beginnings to their marriage. "We got married and moved into a basement apartment," she said. "We walked to class together, shared the housekeeping, and ate a lot of pasta and tuna fish.
"Our desk was a door propped up on sawhorses. Our dining room table was a fold down ironing board in the kitchen. Those were very special days." She tackled criticisms of her husband's wealth, built at his private equity firm Bain Capital, head on."It's true that Mitt has been successful at each new challenge he has taken on. It amazes me to see his history of success actually being attacked.
"Are those really the values that made our country great? As a mom of five boys, do we want to raise our children to be afraid of success? Do we send our children out in the world with the advice, 'Try to do... okay?'" And with her own children and grandchildren cheering her on, her husband came out to embrace his wife and they walked off the stage together to the strains of The Temptations song My Girl.