I went to a couple of events yesterday with Ann Romney in Creston and Osceola, Iowa, for purposes of comparison with the Michelle Obama events, which as it turns out just can't be compared. Mrs. Romney seems very nice, but there's no there there, no political vision. She talks about how kind Mitt was during her struggle with MS and waves at babies in the crowd; she doesn't take questions.
For a look into the difference here, here's a good Ann Friedman story from the American Prospect. "As Peggy Noonan wrote in The Wall Street Journal's opinion pages in August, Republican voters essentially want another Laura Bush. ... Publicly, a [Republican] First Lady–hopeful should appear as serene as if she'd just popped a Xanax and downed a glass of wine." Pretty much the Ann Romney demeanor.
The Mitt caucusers, though, were unusual. If Jo Zunkel is the typical Hillary supporter, then maybe Larry Mark is the typical Mitt supporter: Rural, moderately affluent, late-middle-aged; he works for GM in sales and brought more than one generation of his family with him to the Creston house party.
As with several people I talked to, the religion speech Romney gave figures big for him: "I was leaning towards Mitt, but the speech sealed the deal," he says. "I liked that he said the Mormon religion stops at the church doors. And I liked the nice things he said about other religions." Huckabee intrigued Mark when he saw the governor at the Ames straw poll "with no money, sitting under his tent playing his guitar, handing out free watermelon," but "I've come to feel I can't trust him."
One other thing I heard a lot was how "genuine" Mitt is. It made me laugh, because couldn't you boil down his entire candidacy to "phony, but competent"? But the Ann Romney appearances brought home how family-oriented his appeal on the ground is. Married once, brought his family together during an illness, five perfect sons ("all married!" Ann stresses). When I look at Romney's family I think "Stepford," but a lot of people like how it looks. When you're looking at houses, which one do you want to buy -- the one that looks as homey and cluttered as yours, or the one that's an idealized version of where you want to live?