Ann Romney pushed back Sunday against detractors whom she said have called her husband “heartless,” emphasizing that she and Mitt Romney have struggled, even if not financially.
“Mitt and I do recognize that we have not had a financial struggle in our lives,” Ann Romney said in an interview with Mitt Romney that aired on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “But I want people to believe in their hearts that we know what it is like to struggle. And our struggles have not been financial, but they’ve been with health and with difficulties in different things in life.”
President Obama leads Mitt Romney in the polls when it comes to which candidate has more empathy for people struggling in the economy. At the Republican convention last month, the campaign tried to combat that narrative. Ann Romney tried to humanize Mitt Romney in her address, calling their life together a “real marriage” that began by eating “a lot of pasta and tuna fish.” The campaign also enlisted several of Romney’s friends from his congregation in Massachusetts to paint the candidate as compassionate.
Ann Romney said it was “refreshing” to see their friends whom her husband had helped through hard times to show that the candidate isn’t “heartless” during the Republican convention: “For Mitt, who really has been demonized in many ways as being heartless and for people to stand up and say, ‘Excuse me. He was there when my son was dying of leukemia. He came to my son’s bedside. He did all of these things for my son,’” she said.
While the Romney campaign tried to play up the nominee’s sympathetic side at their convention, Democrats sought to exploit Romney’s reputation as someone who doesn’t understand people’s suffering. ” I think he’s a good guy. He just has no idea how good he’s had it,” San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro said of Romney in his keynote address in Charlotte.
Ann Romney was defensive about that attack. “For people to think that we don’t have empathy just because we’re not suffering like they’re suffering is ridiculous,” she said. “It’s ridiculous to think that — you can’t have empathy for somebody that’s struggling.”
For her part, Ann Romney described suffering from multiple sclerosis as a “cruel teacher” as well as a “great gift” for teaching “me to be more compassionate and caring for others that are suffering.”
Mitt Romney chimed in with his own response to Castro: “I really think that those people that try and minimize the — the feeling and the connection we have with the American people … are trying to divide Americans based on who has money and who was able to achieve success and who does not have as much.”
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.