Photo Credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
I’ll never forget the first time I saw the Obama family on stage together. The way Michelle watched Barack deliver a speech, the way his arm looped around her waist and his upper body leaned in close as they waved to the crowd. I may not have seen eye to eye with this man’s politics, but the chemistry he shared with his wife spoke to me; it reminded me of my own husband, our marriage. Some of my favorite times are when I feel the bracing touch of his hand on my lower back as we walk in public, that first kiss he leans in for after a long day at work. Watching the two of them share a glance, a kiss, a squeeze of the hand on television reminded me of those favorite moments and roused the feelings they often elicit within me.
And then there were the Obama’s two daughters. Malia and Sasha, bright eyed and innocent. They are so close in age to our own girls it only sealed the deal. For the first time in my life, I was staring at a presidential hopeful whose family was enough like my own that there was a visceral connection. And, as it would soon become evident, I was not the only one having that experience. Even after his election, Americans from both sides of the aisle expressed their excitement at having a young family on Pennsylvania Avenue again.
If there’s anything the past four years have taught us anew, it’s that a strong marriage and happy family bring an edge to a presidential ticket and it seems no one knows that better than struggling GOP contender Rick Santorum. While, from a numbers perspective, the GOP race may be over, one thing is still obvious -- people love Rick Santorum. The former Pennsylvania Senator may, in fact, be poised to trounce President Obama at his own game. Karen Santorum and their children can often be found by his side on the campaign trail and his youngest daughter, Bella, who suffers from Trisomy 18 has become something of a campaign mascot; the story of her birth and life are often fodder for her father’s speeches, especially on topics of reproductive health and special needs.
As the GOP primary race wears on, the Santorum family’s tight-knit nature has earned him increasing support among conservative women who, like me, feel a connection to the image of a strong marriage and a growing family on the screen -- and who appreciate that connection with a candidate who shares their political convictions. This, despite comments early in his campaign that had pundits predicting an early demise for the candidate, especially among women voters, who will play a key role in this fall’s general election. It is, after all, hard to imagine a man who is apparently so concerned with the well-being of the women and children in his personal life being as anti-woman as the media once made him out to be.