Elizabeth Edwards: The Toughest Job in Politics

Could YOU do it? The job of Spouse is one of the toughest in politics.

By Kerri Miller

Check it out: MORE’s first guide to political spouses.

Can you tell what year we published this? Hint: Before Spitzer, before Edwards. How do their stories sound today?  
 It’s one tough job. And today’s political spouses have to reinvent it on a daily basis, staying on top of every issue — political, ethical, sartorial — all in the glare of YouTube. Better be discreet (but not distant). Down-to-earth (but never less than elegant). And raise lots of cash. Here, what some significant others in this year’s presidential race have said.
The spouse | Michelle Obama, 43
Day job | Vice president, community and external affairs, University of Chicago Hospitals, on reduced schedule
The candidate | Senator Barack Obama (D.-Ill.), 45
How she sees Obama-mania
"I have some difficulty reconciling the images I have of Barack Obama. There’s Barack Obama the phenomenon: amazing orator, Harvard Law Review editor — or whatever it was — law professor, best-selling author, Grammy winner. And then there’s the Barack Obama that lives with me in my house, and that guy’s a little less impressive… For some reason this guy still can’t manage to put the butter up when he makes toast, secure the bread so that it doesn’t get stale, and his 5-year-old is still better at making the bed than he is.’‘
Source: Men’s Vogue, "Dining for Dollars" by Hudson Morgan, May/June 2007
On the balance of power
"He’s one of the few men I’ve met who is not intimidated by strong women. He relishes the fact that I’m not impressed by him."’
Source: The Chicago Tribune, "Making of a Candidate: Barack’s Rock" by Christi Parsons, Bruce Japsen, and Bob Secter, April 22, 2007
How she cheers him on
In an excerpt from Barack Obama’s book The Audacity of Hope he writes, "...Finally it was just Michelle and me sitting backstage and watching the broadcast, that I started to feel just a tad bit nervous. I mentioned to Michelle that my stomach was feeling a little grumbly. She hugged me tight, looked into my eyes, and said, "Just don’t screw it up, buddy!’‘"
Source: The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama, copyright 2006

Ann Romney
The spouse | Ann Romney, 58
Day job | Board member, New England Chapter, Multiple Sclerosis Society
The candidate | Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R.), 60
Early reaction to being a political spouse, when Romney ran for governor
"I was not onboard with that … Yeah, I think this time is different, because when the governor’s race came, it was, we had just finished the most extraordinary experience at the Salt Lake Winter games, the Winter Olympics, and it was such a high, and everyone was pulling the wagon the same direction. We were all so thrilled, it was great, the world was there, they were successful, it was just this euphoric feeling, and I did not want to step immediately into something that is so negative, with the campaign, after that. I wanted to take a breath, I wanted to enjoy what we’d done.’‘
Source: ABC News, "Conversation with Ann Romney" by Kate Snow, Feb. 14, 2007
What the pundits called her
In an interview for ABC News on February 14, 2007, with Kate Snow, Snow said, "The columnists weren’t very kind to you; maybe you didn’t read it, but in 1994, some of them called you a Stepford wife. They weren’t very kind about it…." Romney said, "Well, you know, those, those things happen, and that’s why I don’t like the print media as much, um, and they’re able to characterize things I think in ways that you don’t like."
Source: ABC News, "Conversation with Ann Romney," by Kate Snow, Feb. 14, 2007
Her one-liner, when asked what distinguishes her husband, a Mormon, from other GOP candidates:
"He’s had only one wife.’‘
Source: The Washington Post, "Romney Brothers Dish on Dad," by Jose Antonio Vargas, June 9, 2007

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