Mitt and Ann: Not so “Out of touch!”

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Public scrutiny of Mitt and Ann Romney’s life began in earnest during the 1994 campaign when he ran against Ted Kennedy for the US Senate. A key aspect of that scrutiny has been a focus on their wealth by those who seek to criticize, something that is quite disheartening to those who know them personally.

During an interview with a Boston Globe reporter as part of their first campaign, Ann spoke somewhat innocently of their time as students and how they made ends meet by selling stock that Mitt had received from his dad for his education:

The stock came from Mitt’s father. When he took over American Motors, the stock was worth nothing. But he invested Mitt’s birthday money year to year — it wasn’t much, a few thousand, but he put it into American Motors because he believed in himself. Five years later, stock that had been $6 a share was $96 and Mitt cashed it so we could live and pay for education (“Ann Romney’s sweetheart deal: She decided her love of 30 years should be senator,” Boston Globe, October 20, 1994, p. 61).

Following the publication of that piece, Ann was criticized for being out of touch, now a common theme of people who wish to criticize her and her husband (Googling the terms, “out of touch” Ann Romney, yields 874,000 hits!). The “selling stock” story was picked up again in August of 2007, in another Boston Globe piece:

In Romney’s past campaigns in Massachusetts, the family’s squeaky clean image did not always go over well. She endured ridicule after a lengthy 1994 interview with the Globe, in which she said she and her husband had never had a serious argument and recounted their struggles as a young married couple having to sell stock to make ends meet. During the 2002 run for governor, an ad featuring her and her husband talking about how they met came across as saccharine to some. Romney’s poll numbers tumbled.

As young married students at Brigham Young University (BYU) my wife and I got to see Mitt and Ann’s marriage up close. We lived for a summer in the same apartment building as they did. Theirs was a semi-subterranean (basement) apartment, which by the way we moved into when they later moved out. They lived very frugally, as did we. We had to. They probably did not.

Once a week, or so, we would “do dinner” together. This did not mean going out to a restaurant, but doing a “Hey, weʼve some some spaghetti and lettuce.” “Great, weʼve got some hamburger and tomatoes.” So weʼd put together a dinner at home.

They were great friends with no visible differences based on their financial resources. From where I stood I would have to absolutely refute the “silver spoon”, “Canʼt identify with the common man” story that goes around.

My view of their marriage has not changed with time. Years later, while attending a professional conference in Boston, I stayed in their home, and saw how Ann handled her several little boys. She was at times a harried mother and housewife, who cringed at and corrected some of their “little boy” behaviors. She described how she often wondered how sheʼd get through the day, and how Mitt was very supportive but often working very long hours and was gone a lot. Probably more by choice than anything else, Mitt and Ann have not been spared the challenges of life of any other normal couple or family.

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