MANCHESTER, N.H. -- As members of the audience broke into loud applause and then sprang to their feet at a town hall meeting in Manchester, Mitt Romney stood on stage and smiled proudly. But the New Hampshire crowd wasn't applauding for him. No, they were showing their appreciation for his wife, Ann.
When the couple appears in public together, Mrs. Romney usually introduces her husband. But at this particular event, Ann was the closing act. And she stole the show.
"I think our hearts are a little somber this morning, as we've heard of the news coming out of Pakistan, recognizing how fragile world peace might be," Mrs. Romney said as she began her remarks.
It seemed like just the right chord to strike — especially since earlier in the day, her husband had come across as a bit cold when, in his haste to react to the news out of Pakistan, he neglected to extend his condolences.
While Governor Romney reverted to notes during his opening remarks, Ann didn't need any. Mrs. Romney may be best known as the attractive stay-at-home mom who bakes granola for her husband's breakfasts, but she is also a solid public speaker who has the rare ability to seem reassuring and confident without even trying.
Ann had the crowd roaring with laughter as she recalled what her five boys were like as little kids ("You guys nearly killed me") and the guilty pleasure it gives her to watch her sons now having to deal with their own misbehaving children.
Mrs. Romney shredded the "too-perfect" label with which her family is sometimes assigned, as she recalled how her husband comforted her during the dark days after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
"He said, 'Don't worry. Tomorrow will be a better day. I don't care how sick you get. Together we can do anything. As long as we're together, we can do anything.'"
For the majority of the campaign, Ann has made sporadic appearances with Governor Romney but has mostly stumped on her own. But Mrs. Romney will now be alongside her husband every day in Iowa leading up to Jan. 3.
Romney's staffers and the governor himself are well aware of what an asset Ann is to the campaign. After his wife received her big standing ovation yesterday, Romney took back the microphone to make one last comment.
"Now you understand," he said. "If you didn't understand before, you understand why after she and I spoke together at the Republican convention here in New Hampshire, some folks came up and said they wanted yard signs, and they wanted the yard signs to read, 'Ann Romney for First Lady.'"