Catching Up with Ann Romney

by Robert Costa

Ann Romney has been on the road for weeks, holding rallies and fundraisers in swing states. Republicans love her, and Romney advisers say her warm way is a winner with undecided voters. Between campaign stops on Friday, she spoke with National Review Online about the debate, the trail, and the president.

NRO: After the debate, you gave the governor a warm hug. What did you say?

Ann Romney: I congratulated him on a fantastic win. It was such a clear win, at least from my perspective. He had been able to express himself without any filters, and without any interpretation about what he was saying, which is what I have been waiting for, for a very long time. I think the American people got a chance to see my husband as I see him, as articulate, thoughtful, caring, and just a very good person.

NRO: You, more than anyone, know about his mannerisms. Was there a moment on Wednesday when you realized that it was going to be quite a night?

ROMNEY: During the very first round of questioning, I was thrilled. Then all of a sudden I realized we were 50 minutes through, and I felt that it had been a knockout punch already, that it was 100 to zero, as I was interpreting it. I was sitting next to my son, and we just kind of kept giving each other a warm squeeze or a nudge or something, because we all sensed it. So did the people sitting around me. Every time I turned anywhere, everyone was giving me the thumbs-up. We were being very obedient to the moderator and not making any noise, but we were celebrating inside.

NRO: I heard you went to The Cheesecake Factory before the debate.

ROMNEY: We wish we could have gone to The Cheesecake Factory, but it got delivered. We had four of the five boys with us, and two of the grandchildren. We were together for the afternoon, laughing and telling jokes, and just enjoying each other’s company. We reminded each other about some of the past debates we’ve been in, and, you know, that it was amazing that we were at this point, and how exciting it was. We were all looking forward to it. There was a great sense of peace and calm that came over all of us in the afternoon before the debate. Usually I’m quite nervous for Mitt. You know, after all of the debates we’ve had to sit through, it can be very hard to sit and watch. But I wasn’t nervous at all. I wasn’t nervous during the debate, or before the debate.

NRO: Senator Rob Portman, who played President Obama during debate prep, has apparently bonded with the governor. What’s your take?

ROMNEY: You know, it’s interesting. Ordinarily, I would have been in all of the debate prep. But because of my schedule, Mitt was in debate prep for a few days when I was on the West Coast and he was on the East Coast. There was another stretch where he did a day of debate prep and I was on the road. Believe it or not, I did not attend one debate-prep session, which is quite unusual for me, so I’ve never seen the relationship between the two. I’ve heard, though, that it was very warm, that it was quite serious, that he was a fantastic debater. I would always hear that at the end of the day. When Mitt would talk to me, he’d say, “Boy, I’m glad I don’t have to debate that guy.” Mitt has a great deal of fondness for him, for his intellect and his integrity, for the kind of person he is. Mitt just really respects him.

NRO: You’ve recently been holding solo rallies and fundraisers. Why have you taken on a larger role?

ROMNEY: It’s funny. I’ve been doing a lot of this for a long time, it’s just no one has noticed. I clearly haven’t been doing rallies, but I’ve been doing the fundraising and I’ve been speaking different places, and I’ve been doing my own political events. But I haven’t probably had the draw to be able to even pull people in for rallies. That’s probably the only thing that has really changed. I honestly feel like my role is sort of in defense of my husband, since there has been so much criticism from either the media or from the close to, I don’t know, a billion dollars of negative ads that have been spent on my husband. It’s like, someone has to go out there and say, “Wait a minute! This guy is a great guy,” and talk more about the side of the person that you saw at the convention and at the debate, where he cares for people, where he is doing this because he does care that people are suffering. That’s why we’re running.

NRO: Speaking of people who are making claims, what do you make of President Obama’s telling a Wisconsin crowd that the governor was duplicitous during the debate?

ROMNEY: I hadn’t heard that, but that’s interesting. Mitt’s positions are exactly what they’ve always been, and if he had done his homework, he would have known better.

NRO: So you don’t think the president did enough homework?

ROMNEY: Well, something happened.

NRO: Between now and the election, what’s your schedule?

ROMNEY: I’m on the road. Today I just joined up with Mitt in Clearwater, Fla. I’m going to join him for a rally this evening, and then we’re together for the weekend. Then I leave again and do my own things in New York on Monday. Next week, I’ll be co-hosting Good Morning America, and I’ll be on the Rachel Ray show. That’s kind of how it’s going to go, I imagine. We’ll weave in and out of each other’s schedules. I’ll do everything I can. I’ll be on the road. I don’t think I’m going to be home much. It’s just how we’re going to make it work for the next four weeks.

NRO: You’re not the only Romney with an elevated role. Your oldest son, Tagg, is reportedly working as an adviser.

ROMNEY: All of them are working hard. Tagg may have gotten a little more publicity, maybe, but they’re all out there, except for Ben, my doctor son, because he’s in his third year of residency and he can’t really leave or travel. But even Ben is helping. He was on a telephone town hall with me last night. The other boys are on the road. Craig, who is fluent in Spanish, is doing a lot of outreach, and he’s doing television and radio interviews in Florida, Nevada, and Colorado. Matt is out fundraising; they’re all over. When we were all saying goodbye on Thursday, I kept asking, “Where are you going?” Everyone was going somewhere. It was unbelievable. I can barely keep my own schedule straight, so I can’t even say where they were all going, but four of the five are going all over the country, and the fifth is doing what he can.