sábado, 16 de junio de 2012

Ann Romney gana visibilidad

For nearly two decades, Mrs. Romney has chosen to nurture her husband’s political aspirations, and now that he has clinched the Republican presidential nomination, she is becoming more visible on the campaign trail, headlining fund-raisers and political events. Her husband’s team is making her available for news media interviews and has surrounded her with minders to help her withstand the increasing scrutiny.

Like Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Bush, she once had deep reservations about politics and has learned the perils of being a combatant. Her husband’s first race, unlike her contest in Belmont, ended in a bitter defeat, losing in a Senate run against the incumbent, Edward M. Kennedy, and she came off in the news media as a frivolous lady who lunches. Afterward, she told The Boston Globe: “Never. You couldn’t pay me to do this again.”

Since then, though, she has become her husband’s chief promoter, willing to plunge into the political fight and prodding him into his current race, even though most of her family was against it. While he was enumerating all the possible hurdles, she recalled, she frustrated him by cutting him off and saying, “No, I’m not going to consider those things because those change every day.”

(...) In raising their five boys, Mrs. Romney said, her husband was strict while she was more lenient. She is decisive, while he is deliberative. He is wary of going off script, while she unabashedly mentioned their multiple houses and her expensive dressage horses, hot-button topics for a campaign trying not to highlight the Romneys’ wealth. And while he is earnest, she can be irreverent.

(...) But the couple shares a similar drive and intensity. She once pushed — literally — a heckler who threatened her husband when he was governor of Massachusetts, said her eldest son, Tagg. And, like her husband, she hates losing.

“She’s a lioness, very competitive and determined,” said Alex Castellanos, an adviser to the Romney 2008 campaign. Losing upsets her, he said, adding that she expects others to commit as deeply as she does to her husband’s cause. “She’s an all-in kind of person.”

(...) While she describes herself as “tough,” her fortitude was tested in 1998 with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. With the illness came bone-crushing fatigue. So tired that she barely had the energy to form words, she found herself in bed all day because of exhaustion, and depression soon followed.

Mrs. Romney largely turned inward. “I wasn’t sharing,” she said. “I wasn’t telling anyone what I was going through.” Though she often talks on the campaign trail about this “dark” period, she struggled last week to describe the grimness of those early months: “I don’t want to say I was suicidal or anything like that.”

“There were many times when I sort of wished I had cancer and would just die,” she said. “And just sort of say, O.K., this is cancer and this is what it’s going to do. And this is where it’s going to finish me.”

She tackled her illness with characteristic determination, and Mr. Romney took a practical approach, trying to figure out ways to help his wife feel better. In addition to receiving standard treatment from top doctors in Boston, she sought alternative remedies including reflexology (her son Josh learned the basics so he could help out), acupuncture, and eventually, horse therapy.

Not only had the disease altered her sense of self — the energetic, vivacious woman used to caring for others — but it also upended her vision of the future: her plan to go back to school for a master’s degree in art history and pursue a career outside of the home.

Her illness also brought a new perspective, and made the ups and downs of her husband’s two presidential runs seem bearable. “You know there’s a resolution to these things,” Mrs. Romney said. “You know that things go on, you know that life goes on.”

(...) In 2008, when the Romneys held a family meeting with their sons and daughters-in-law to vote on whether he should run for president, all 12 hands went up in favor of a bid. Four years later, aware of the toll and the long odds, the family was reluctant. When they took a vote, only two hands rose to say yes — those of Tagg and Mrs. Romney.

Mrs. Romney said that her husband was bogged down in the details — the political climate, the likely Republican field — while she focused on the “abstract” of whether she believed he would make a good president.

“I skipped right past all of those and went just to the heart of it,” she said.

Though former and current aides say she does not meddle in the day-to-day operations of the campaign, she has made her views known. During his first presidential race, she argued that he should address the issue of his Mormon faith head-on, which he eventually did in a speech in Texas. This time, echoing a point aides had been making, she helped put an end to a seemingly indeterminable series of primary debates when she publicly declared, with a laugh: “I’ve also decided no more debates. If we’re going to do another debate, he’s going to sit in the audience and watch me.”

“She said it kind of jokingly, but she also drew a line that no one in the campaign would cross,” Mr. Castellanos said. “I think behind the frivolity, between the warm humor, there’s a lot of steel that’s respected by everybody in the campaign because it’s respected by Mitt Romney.”

When she had a brief flare-up of her illness right before Super Tuesday, a crucial day of nominating contests, Mrs. Romney kept the health scare a secret and forced herself to continue campaigning. “I knew I had to take a break, and I knew I couldn’t,” she said.

All of her energy, friends say, is devoted to getting her husband elected president. Tony Kimball, a friend of the Romneys from Belmont, recalls running into Mrs. Romney at church in December, when the campaign was heating up.

“She just kept saying, ‘I really think Mitt is going to go all the way, I’m convinced of it,’ ” he said. “She’s very, very much in favor, and pushing hard.”