Commentary Magazine


The Candidates’ Wives

Out of all the speakers last night, Ann Romney stole the show when she gave an introduction of her husband, replete with an impossibly long thank you list for their Michigan victory:

Ann has a personal confidence and easy rapport with the audience that her husband, as much as he’s improved as a speaker, has never been able to master. She’s just likeable. When you see her speak, you think, “Well, I guess if she married him, he can’t be all bad.” And Mitt seems to realize his good fortune. As Jonathan tweeted last night, “Mitt looks at Ann the way Nancy looked at Ronald Reagan.”

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum took some time during his concession speech to talk about the “strong women” in his own life, a well-timed move considering that his controversial comments on women in the workplace are still getting picked over by pundits. It was a way for Santorum to try to erase the perception that he’s anti-women, without directly mentioning any hot-button topics. Here’s what he had to say about his mother, a woman who juggled a career and her family at a time when doing both was rare:

But my mom’s in a very — well, unusual person for her time. She’s someone who — who did get a college education in the — in the 1930s, and was a nurse, and got a graduate’s degree, even, as a nurse, and worked full time. And when she married my dad, they worked together at the Veterans Administration. That’s where they met, right after the war.

And later on, they were — they had me and the rest of the family, my brother and sister, and my mom continued to work. She worked all of my childhood years. She balanced time, as my dad did, working different schedules, and she was a very unusual person at that time. She was a professional who actually made more money than her husband.

I grew up with a very strong mom, someone who was a professional person who taught me a lot of things about how to balance work and family, and doing it well, and doing it with a big heart and commitment.

Santorum also spoke about his wife Karen, and her own decision to give up her career to raise her children:

You know, that’s probably one of the reasons that I ended up marrying the person I married here, Karen, someone… someone who’s as strong as they get, someone who is — I met when we were — when she was just about to start the practice of law and I was doing the same. I recruited her, in more ways than one, to my law firm.

Karen was a professional, worked as a nurse for nine years, and then after that, she — she — we got married, and she walked away. And she decided to stay home and raise her children, but she didn’t quit working, obviously. Raising seven children is a lot of work, but she found time also to be an author of two books, those books about — really went to the heart of the family and something that she knows a lot about.

Santorum should be telling these stories whenever he gets a chance, because they’ll help dispel the notion he’s uncomfortable with women in the workplace. As he’s said in the past, he doesn’t object to women working, but to the idea that a career is the sole path to fulfillment.

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