Ann Romney: Mitt writes 'Dad' before debates
01:28 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Ann Romney: husband's best surrogate?

Ann Romney on Mitt: "He's just such a good, decent human being."

Ann Romney: "His whole life has been in the private economy. He understands job creation."

Ann jabs Barack Obama's record: "Do you expect the economy to get better under this president?"

Washington CNN  — 

After her husband’s failed 2008 run for president, Ann Romney said she would never do it again – until she decided she would. And now that Mitt Romney is in the political fight of his life, Ann has become a key advocate and character witness. And when he’s attacked, she’s his chief defender – as this race has become an increasingly personal crusade for a woman who wants the voters to see her husband the way she sees him.

“His whole life has been a preparation for him being where he is right now. His whole life has been an experience of working in very troubled situations, turning around troubled situations. His whole life has been in the private economy. He understands job creation. He understands the difficulties of an economic decline. He understands what’s missing in an economic recovery,” she told CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger in a recent interview in Reno, Nevada.

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She also stresses, in appearances, the personal side of her husband to try to combat a perception of him as an uncaring, rich businessman.

“He has a character that is so strong, and is caring, and is good, and is – he’s just such a good, decent human being,” she said.

Just this week, she headlined events in Las Vegas – near where President Barack Obama was preparing for Wednesday’s debate – and outside Denver. Her popularity is higher than her husband’s, and she makes sure to do a series of local television interviews at most stops to help spread the message.

In campaign speeches, she describes how her husband helped those in need or who were sick, including visiting those in the hospital – even taking their sons with him to help teach them.

“That is where Mitt is when someone is in trouble. He is there. He is by the bedside,” she told a campaign rally in Littleton, Colorado, on Tuesday.

She also has encouraged others with personal stories of how he has helped people to share them, a campaign aide confirmed to CNN.

Ann Romney: ‘Dad’ is always with Mitt at the debates

Since Mitt Romney is known as someone who doesn’t like to talk about himself and his record spanning private business and turning around the 2002 Olympics, his wife is trying to fill the void.

“One thing I know about Mitt. He doesn’t fail. … I have seen him be successful in everything he tackles,” she told the Colorado audience. “We’ve seen Mitt do so many turnarounds. I am guessing this country is due for a turnaround, and I am guessing there is somebody who knows how to do turnarounds, and his name is Mitt Romney.”

In light of polls that show a large majority of Americans say they don’t believe Mitt Romney understands the concerns of average Americans, one of his wife’s main missions is to convince them otherwise – especially after the secretly recorded video at a fundraiser where he said 47% of people would not vote for him because they don’t pay income taxes.

Michelle Obama: Debates make me nervous

“I think the first and most important thing is to recognize is that’s not an accurate perception, that he’s obviously running for 100 percent of the Americans. … This is a guy that does care, that does understand. That’s why we’re running,” she told Borger.

After the 2008 campaign, Ann Romney made a video emphatically telling her husband she would not endure another campaign. She, however, changed her mind because she said the state of the economy convinced her he was needed.

Her frustration with some of the recent Republican criticism of how her husband’s campaign is being run recently became public. When Radio Iowa asked her what she would say to those critics she responded “Stop it. This is hard … you want to try it. Get in the ring.”

Ann Romney touts her husband’s softer side

She was more cautious in the CNN interview.

“You know, there’s – there’s always days when you just go – you know, everyone’s a critic. And you just go, ‘If – if you really understood what you’re up against when you do run for president, it’s a very difficult thing,”’ she told Borger. “It’s really hard for a family member, a person that loves this person that you see going through these difficulties, and just – know, you know – how tough it is on – on that person that you love.”

Mrs. Romney is also her husband’s major defender. Originally she wanted to go to back to the press section of the campaign plane to complain to reporters about some of the coverage of his European trip this past summer, but officials urged her not to do that, campaign aides confirmed to CNN.

She makes gentle jabs at Obama and his record, such as describing to CNN the question people should ask themselves when going into the voting booth:

“They should be thinking about, ‘Have the past four years been good? Do you expect the economy to get better under this president? Or do you think it’s gonna just go on as it has been, just dribbling along?’”

While she continues to suffer from multiple sclerosis, which was diagnosed in 1998, it is not stopping her from a vigorous campaign schedule. She is expected to be out on the trail constantly between now and Election Day at rallies, fundraisers and doing television interviews.

Debate advice: Obama, light a cig; Romney, throw deep