A Guide to the Political Assets of the GOP Spouses

The wives -- and one husband -- each offer a quality the candidate lacks

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The Iowa caucuses could be less than 100 days away -- depending on whether any states try to push their votes up to get more attention. That means it's time for the campaigns to bust out their big guns -- the wives (and one husband). Spouses bring in friendly press and make the candidates seem like real humans. (Michelle Obama was just spotted shopping "incognito" at Target.) This week they're out on the campaign trail and sending out fundraising appeals with details about their wonderful better halves. They also tend to offer some quality that the candidate is lacking. Our guide to the void filled by the Republican spouses:

Ann Romney
Mitt Romney is has rap for being bland and disconnected from regular people. At times, he appears unable to compute human humor. What she brings: Folksiness. Enter Ann, who brings in a natural "folksy touch," as the Associated Press' Steve Peoples calls it. "Seemingly with no filter, she jokes about bathroom messes, cooking for a huge family and personal struggles with her husband's public life," Peoples writes. "She reminds voters, in a most genuine way, that Mitt Romney is a father, a hand-holding husband, a high school sweetheart. He is noticeably more comfortable in her presence." (Photo via Reuters.)
Anita Perry
Perry's decision as Texas governor to mandate that tween girls be vaccinated for HPV, an STD that can cause cervical cancer, led to weeks of controvesy. What she brings: A shield from controversy. The issue started to subside after Anita suddenly emerged as a strong advocate for the policy. The New York Times's Susan Saluny reports that Texas's first lady pushed for the vaccine for years. A friend calls Anita "a quiet feminine force who, of course, speaks up in her family." Another recalls telling her, "I’m sorry that the governor has taken so much heat on this because, as a mother, I totally agree with it... And she said, 'Thank you, I think it was the right thing to do.'" (Photo via Reuters.)
Callista Gingrich
To win the Republican nomination, any candidate needs the blessing of social conservatives. And that was perceived as Newt Gingrich's biggest weakness going into the campaign, since he'd have to explain his three marriages and two affairs. What she brings: The fear of God. Gingrich frequently begins sentences with "Callista and I..." He converted to Catholicism, and the two make documentaries about Pope John Paul II. He told the Christian Broadcasting Network, "There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate... I think most people, deep down in their hearts hope there's a forgiving God... Callista and I have a great marriage. I think that I've learned an immense amount." (Photo via Reuters.)
Karen Santorum
When Rick Santorum announced his candidacy back in June, the soundbite that led the AP's report was, "I'm in it to win it." If that counts as newsworthy, it suggests a big problem: no one seems to think that even he can imagine accepting the nomination in Tampa Bay next year. What she brings: True believerism. When Catholic Online's Jennifer Hartline wrote about Karen, she mentioned all the usual stuff -- "down-to-earth, immensely likable" -- but when it comes to campaigning, "she's got the steel for it." Karen's said that the 2012 race will be "literally on a battlefield" and that it "really boils down to God's will." And she told Hartline that certain issues matter, and not in your typical friendly spouse tone. "To be honest, Rick had no desire to run until Obamacare," Karen says. "That was the final straw for him, the line in the sand. Something has to be done. That law will change our country fundamentally forever, and as parents of a special-needs child we knew that they would be the first to be denied care under Obamacare. Rick and I can't stand on the sidelines and allow Obama to bring our nation to its knees." (Photo via CBN.)
Mary Kaye Huntsman
John Huntsman's campaign trail style has been, to put it mildly, rather relaxed. He shoots pool, rides motorcycles, riffs about prog rock, writes goofy stuff on Twitter, and otherwise seems to be having a good time. What she brings: Drive. "Mary Kaye Huntsman stands out from the crowd of prospective 2012 presidential spouses in one important way: she actually wants her husband to be president," Politico's Kasie Hunt writes. All the other spouses are nervous about the scrutiny, but not her. Time's Mark Halperin says, "She has political gifts that rival her husband's," and notes that she was the one who suggested Huntsman HQ should be in Orlando. Of course, on Thursday the campaign announced the Florida office would be closed and moved to New Hampshire. Maybe that was her idea, too? (Photo via Reuters.)
Marcus Bachmann
After Calista Gingrich, Marcus Bachmann may be the most talked-about spouse on the 2012 circuit, and not really in a good way. Still, with Bachmann fending off claims of being "crazy" in one way or another (as in: -eyed, wrong about history, unable to look into a camera), it must be nice to have a kind of foil.
What he brings: Practical things. Somewhat controversially, he occasionally acts as a bouncer, shoving away reporters when his wife is in a thick crowd, which has not always been good for the Bachmann team's media relations. He also picks out Michele Bachmann's outfits, fitting her style that she calls "classic with a snap." In 2006, Bachmann told The Minneapolis Star Tribune's Kim Ode that when she was going to meet then-Vice President Dick Cheney, Marcus went shopping: "he's got a good sense of style" and he bought her "a sleek, simple hourglass dress with a yoke collar in winter white." Ode explains, "He even bought a matching coat and shoes." Oh, that Marcus. (Photo via Reuters.)
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.