Ann Romney’s address to the GOP Convention in Florida overnight was slated as an opportunity for her to ‘humanise’ her husband and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and as a speech that could help the Republican Party appeal to American women. She may have made some progress on the former, but the latter requires a lot more work.
First Ladies, first husbands and the wives and partners of election candidates have long been used — in the US and at home — to continually remind the voting public that the men (and in a few cases the women) in power they support have family concerns and pressures just like anyone else. They offer a means to discuss parenthood, show they understand raising children, marriage, relationships, that they experience hardships and the pressures of family and working life, that they can relate to the opposite sex. Last week, Opposition leader Tony Abbott pointed to his experience at home to remind Australians he does not have a “problem with women“.
Ann Romney’s clearly looking to help change perceptions that Republicans have their own “problem with women”. A problem deemed a “war on women” even before Todd Akin’s recent disturbing and disgusting comments about rape, the nomination of a vice presidential candidate who believes women should be told what forms of contraception they can access and who co-sponsored the ‘personhood’ bill, and a line-up of other, earlier issues regarding women and the Republication party, aptly described as an “assault on women” in this recent New York Times editorial.
Ann Romney framed her speech as one about love, the “deep and abiding love I have for a man I met at a dance many years ago” and the “love we share for those Americans … Going through difficult times”.
She gave a line to working mums too, those who “love their jobs but would like to work just a little less to spend more time with the kids, but that’s just out of the question in this economy … If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the women sighing a little bit more than the men,”
It was all part of Romney’s pitch to show her camp cares about the “moms of this nation … Who really hold this country together”.
She then moved to tell the audience a little more about Mitt. How they met, how he was raised. She said they married young, lived in a basement apartment, shared the housework and ate “a lot of pasta and tuna”. They had five sons together.
She finished with a direct appeal, that women “can trust Mitt Romney”.
So will the speech convince the women of America? And what does it say about the level of debate in this campaign that women need to be convinced they can “trust” a presidential candidate to do the right things on issues that are nothing short of life-changing to them?
Ann Romney’s speech was the Republican party’s strongest pitch to women yet. But I doubt declaring “I love you women!” from the stage will be enough. The devil’s in the detail, as they say.