Ann Romney's speech was latest effort to show Mitt's softer side.
TAMPA, FLA. - Where Mitt Romney can be stiff in public, Ann Romney is warm. Where he is all business, she laughs easily and provides glimpses of a private down-to-earth Mitt who irons his own shirts and does his own laundry.
That, anyway, is the portrait the campaign has been trying to paint through a series of new, intimate interviews with Ann Romney, the one campaign surrogate thought to be able to dispel a hardening image that her husband is unapproachable and cold.
On Tuesday night, Ann Romney took to the stage to make the argument in her biggest moment yet, a nationally televised address that electrified the Republican National Convention crowd.
She said those struggling in the down economy -- particularly women -- need help making life a little easier.
And that's where Mitt Romney comes in she said, "and you really should get to know him."
As a young couple, Ann Romney said, she and Mitt ate tuna and pasta and used an ironing board as a kitchen table. She said he grew from the tall, nervous, funny teen she met at a high school dance to a man with an uncommon knack for creating successful enterprises.
She acknowledged that she and her husband had done better than most. But, she insisted, "as his partner on this amazing journey, I can tell you Mitt Romney was not handed success. He built it."
As proof of the determination he will bring to fixing the economy, she recounted evidence that only she, as his wife, would know: his devotion as she struggled with potentially deadly health problems, including her 1998 diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
"I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a 'storybook marriage.' Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once," she said. "And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or Breast Cancer."
"A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage," she said.
Campaign advisers hope intimate anecdotes from Ann -- she recently described how Mitt curled up in bed beside her to comfort her when she was racked with depression after they learned she had MS -- will finally convince the public that he is truly an approachable guy.
But there are pitfalls to Ann Romney's easy flashes of emotion. She has at times come across as peevish in interviews defending her husband. Last month, she accused the Obama campaign of trying to "kill" Mitt with negative campaign ads, and she has appeared befuddled as to why anyone would want to see more of the couple's tax returns.
But campaign advisers think that in the final weeks of the campaign, she can play a key role in helping close a gender gap between Mitt Romney and President Obama.