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Romney's secret weapon could backfire

Barack Obama is offering dinner with George Clooney at the actor's palatial Los Angeles home as first prize in a raffle to boost his presidential campaign coffers.

Mitt Romney had much the same idea. But the lucky winner in his raffle gets "a bite" with the presumptive Republican candidate's wife.

Ann Romney has been assigned the challenging task of getting the voters to see beyond Mitt's stiff and sometimes testy demeanour, and to put aside the fact that as a man born to great wealth he's nothing like the average American.

But last week Ms Romney, 63, turned a widely scorned criticism of her for not having held a paid job to her advantage.

Mr Romney has all but sewn up the Republican nomination, as Newt Gingrich last week followed Rick Santorum in dropping out of the presidential race.

Mr Romney gets his wife on stage at almost every opportunity. She is the one to introduce his campaign appearances. He calls her "my sweetheart" in public and he often holds her hand.

A firestorm of criticism after a Democratic pundit, Hilary Rosen, said that Ms Romney had "never worked a day in her life" because of her husband's wealth, set up the Republican candidate's wife to strike back. Her first response was a tweet: "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work."

That put the Democrats on the back foot and they quickly distanced themselves from Ms Rosen out of concern that she would be seen to be demeaning women who stay at home to raise children. Ms Rosen was forced to apologise.

Ms Romney picked up on that theme in a speech in Connecticut, painting herself as an ordinary mom raising five boys, doing the shopping, cooking and cleaning. She knew "what it's like to finish the laundry and look in the basket five minutes later and it's full again," she said.

"I know what it's like to pull all the groceries in and see the teenagers run through and then all of the sudden all of the groceries you bought a few hours ago were gone. And I know what it's like to get up early in the morning to get them off to school, and I know what it's like to get up in the middle of the night when they're sick, and I know what it's like to struggle and to have those concerns that all mothers have," she said, to two standing ovations.

But Ms Romney gave the game away -- that hers is no ordinary family with a net worth of around $220m and several houses -- when she began talking about working mothers.

"My hats off to the men in this room too that are raising kids -- I love that, and I love the fact that there are also women out there that don't have a choice and they must go to work and they still have to raise the kids. Thank goodness that we value those people too. And sometimes life isn't easy for any of us," she said.

She also struck the wrong note when she tried to suggest she understood the problems of financially strapped families by saying that when she and her husband were in college they had to sell some of their stocks to get by.

Critics have noted that she speaks about herself as if she is speaking for all women, but this only highlights how different her experience is from those families grappling with unemployment, foreclosure and insufficient funds to pay for healthcare at a time when her husband is campaigning to cut services for the poor.

At other times she has struck a note of entitlement, and an "us and them" mentality.

And she has also been left to defend a notorious incident during a family holiday long ago, when Mitt strapped their dog to the roof of the car for a 12-hour drive to Canada. She said the animal "loved it".

© Guardian

Sunday Independent