Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
First Lady Michelle Obama is being hailed as her husband's 2012 re-election "secret weapon." While President Obama is busy being the cerebral, wonky leader of the free world, Michelle puts a warmer, more relatable face on his policies and gives voters an inside peek into who the president is as a family man and husband. Her presence in the media and as a campaign surrogate completes the Barack Obama narrative in a way that resonates with voters, especially women.
So as the title of Republican front-runner has moved from candidate to candidate, it's had some observers wondering what it would take to move one of them out in front. The official answer, of course, is convention delegates. But to win hearts and votes, every candidate needs some kind of secret weapon. For Mitt Romney, that's turning out to be his wife, Ann.
She hasn't been on the campaign trail with him for all that long, but one thing is as clear as the water by his beach front mansion in La Jolla, California -- when she's at his side or on the stump alone, she connects with and energizes the party faithful in a way that Mitt is still struggling with. Called by the inside-the-D.C.-beltway newspaper Politico as "the Romney that Democrats fear most," the 62-year-old grandmother is the GOP's newest political rock star. As Ann Romney speaks lovingly to voters about the Mitt she knows -- the dad, the husband, her "sixth son" -- she is creating a true fan base that has, so far, eluded him.
WATCH: Is Ann Romney Mitt's Secret Weapon to Win Over Women Voters?
Ann excels at warming up the crowds for her husband's speeches and reminding Republicans that women are focused on the full array of issues this election season, including the deficit and the economy. And Mitt's advisors hope she can soften their candidate's rough edges that, so far, have kept him from convincing voters that he really is the one that they want and that, even though the Romney's have more money in the bank than most Americans, he can still feel their pain.
Ann Romney is more Mamma Bear than Mama Grizzly as she plays up her brood of children and grandchildren, and she has a gentle sense of humor (something Mitt struggles with) that the crowds like. As long as she stays away from the jokes about her husband being too "zipped" up, she could turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to Romney's second run at the White House.
But besides having a more relatable personality, another reason Mitt needs Ann is his "woman problem" thing. Polls show that President Obama has a huge lead with women voters, which some are chalking up to the ongoing "war on women" narrative. Just having a Pinterest account that reveals the Romney family secrets about meatball cakes and Ann's favorite reads isn't going to cut it for a clear win, so if Ann really is the new secret weapon, Romney's campaign needs her to start doing more than her standing by his side, making a few remarks and narrating a matriarchal video.
But as the 2012 campaign moves forward with two secret weapons, I have to ask -- why aren't they the candidates?
You can read more from iVillage iVote Editor and Correspondent Joanne Bamberger at her blog, PunditMom. Joanne is also the author of the Amazon bestseller Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook!