(NEW YORK) — Candidates’ wives face the spotlight in almost every election, but at this point in the 2012 presidential campaign, Ann Romney and Michelle Obama have taken center stage in a way few politicians’ wives ever have.
While Mitt Romney’s acceptance address had its moving moments, it was his wife who vied for the hearts of the American people — especially American women — Tuesday night.
And it was Ann Romney who upped the ante for first lady Michelle Obama to paint her husband as a hard-working son of a single mother and a devoted family man, rather than an out-of-touch bureaucrat, when she takes the stage this week.
Democrats will prominently feature the first lady and other female activists at their convention, a clear sign that despite Ann Romney’s impassioned speech at the Republican National Convention, the so-called “women’s vote” is not yet in the bag for the GOP.
A matchup of quotes from candidates and their wives’ that ABC made in July illustrates how the women show a more empathetic side to Romney and Obama.
Michelle Obama is expected to speak Tuesday night after San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.
The first lady has maintained her popularity with Americans in recent years, unlike her husband. She scored a favorable rating from 66 percent of Americans polled in a Gallup report this May, the same score she received two years ago and just six points down from her peak of 72 percent.
Only half of those polled ranked the president favorably in an ABC/Washington Post poll released last week.
But in the same poll, Romney ranked even worse with voters. The results reflected his struggle to win over the single women: Only 34 percent of women rated him favorably, and unmarried women especially had a negative impression of the former Massachusetts governor.
Even before her RNC speech, Ann Romney had been on the campaign trail trying to humanize her husband, insisting “he is funny, he is engaging, he is witty,” in one memorable interview, where she offered to “unzip” the candidate.
But Tuesday’s appearance seemed to really connect with the audience.
Massachusetts State Rep. Sheila Harrington, R-Groton, told CafeMom that members of her state’s delegation have been “chomping at the bit” to tell voters what Romney is like as a person.
“No one can tell that story better than the mother of his children, his wife, the love of his life, and I think she really was able to get that across to people,” Harrington said.
But regardless of their current popularity with women, both Romney and Obama still have a long battle ahead before Election Day.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Josh Friesen, Idaho State Journal
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Theodore Schleifer, CNN