It's a dangerous game, patronising voters, but Ann Romney is prepared to take the risk.
In a bid to make her husband Mitt, America's Republican presidential hopeful, seem softer and less like an out-of-touch rich guy, Ann has stepped up to talk about "love".
In a treacly speech at the Republican convention on Tuesday, aimed specifically at women, Mrs Romney made clear she wasn't going to worry her audience's pretty little heads about "issues"; oh dear me no: "I want to talk to you," she said, "about the deep and abiding love I have for a man I met at a dance many years ago." Oh, God.
The Romneys were both the children of wealthy businessmen, Mitt's father also being governor of Massachusetts. Mrs Romney skated over that in her speech, however, and bigged up the fact that one of her grandfathers had been a Welsh miner. She portrayed the Romneys' early married life as humble: while they were students, an ironing board was their "dining table". She didn't mention that they lived by selling off stock from Mitt's father.
Most of her speech was directed at women. Declaring herself "the luckiest woman in the world" as Romney's wife, she urged other women to see her husband in a new light.
"You can trust Mitt. He loves America. He will take us to a better place, just as he took me home safely from that dance. Give him that chance. Give America that chance."
Pass the sick bag.
Now, there will probably be plenty of women in the United States who "aww-ed" and "ahh-ed" at Mrs Romney's speech and will have been softened up for the hard sell later, but many others will have felt irritated and talked down to, on three counts. Firstly, there is Mrs Romney's attempt to present herself as sharing the same concerns as other hard-pressed families. In fact, she is provided for by a famously wealthy husband (estimated to be worth £145 million), has three homes (a condo in Massachusetts, a lake house in New Hampshire and a beach house in California) and two Cadillacs, so her talk of "all the little things" that add up is liable to sound distinctly condescending to other women.
Then there is the complacent assumption that all it takes to win over a female voter is to have the candidate's adoring wife say nice stuff about him. Romney's low approval rating among women has been widely attributed to his hardline stance on abortion and withdrawing funding from contraception providers, so why should we care that he still makes his wife laugh? This attitude casts women en masse as credulous ingenues who will melt and swoon at the notion that a powerful man has a "human side".
We have celebrity culture to thank for that. A whole industry feeds people's fascination with even the tiniest titbit from the lives of the famous, something that politicians have been quick to exploit. Insights into their personal lives have become a sort of virtual commodity, traded in return for popularity, deployed at key moments to boost poll ratings.
In this respect, Tuesday's speech was the culmination of a not-very-subtle charm offensive that began when Mitt spoke to CNN about the moment he "welled up tears" just before Ann was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998. This was swiftly followed by Ann revealing that Mitt would "curl up in the bed" to comfort her when she was struggling with depression brought on by the diagnosis (the disease, thankfully, has been largely in remission ever since).
The story is touching – who wouldn't be moved by the recollections of a woman who has been through such a frightening experience? – and it will also have done much to raise awareness of MS, and of depression. That, mind you, was not the Romneys' prime motivation for talking about it right now.
Finally, there's the fact that speeches such as this take voters for fools. Are people not supposed to notice that a wife's version of her husband is hopelessly partial, that her selective amnesia will ensure they get only a carefully airbrushed version of the man in question?
It's hard to know who to listen to when choosing a new leader, but it's certainly not the candidate's wife.
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