There are a couple of factors at work. President Barack Obama was in Miami on Thursday, so having the wife of the Republican presidential candidate in the same television market, guarantees at least a few images for the 6 o’clock news. By 11 p.m., the focus will be all on the veep debate.
“There’s no better surrogate,” said Robert Watson, a Lynn University political scientist, has written extensively about first ladies, including the book The Presidents' Wives: Reassessing the Office of First Lady. “Almost every spouse of a candidate or president, their approval numbers are higher than the candidate or the president. So she’s more popular.”
Plus, he said, it’s generally danger free. The events are softer – which was the case with Ann Romney on Thursday – and generally positive with little controversy.
“She doesn’t have to wade into the waters [of] do we have to get the troops out of Afghanistan now or later,” he said.
“Here’s the main contribution: In presidential politics, personality trumps policy. Ultimately to some degree these contests become personality contests. They’re character driven.
“We want to know Obama and Romney as people. And there’s nobody more effective in telling their story than the first lady or the candidate’s wife,” he said.
“We cannot overstate the value of the first lady or the spouse of the candidate on the stump,” Watson said.
“It’s always important. In Romney’s case I think it’s doubly important because possibly the main ingredient with our presidential campaigns is that connection with the public, that rapport,” he said.