With Lake Winnipesaukee in the background, Republican presidential candidate Mitt...

With Lake Winnipesaukee in the background, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, accompanied by his wife Ann, addresses a crowd after participating in the Fourth of July Parade in Wolfeboro, N.H. (July 4, 2012) Credit: AP

I believe Ann Romney when she says she’s tougher than she was even four years ago. And nobody who’s raised five boys and gone up against both breast cancer and multiple sclerosis, as she has, was any hothouse orchid to begin with.

Recently, the presumptive Republican nominee’s wife told the Miami Herald that what she most wants the public to know about her is "that I am pretty direct and pretty honest and I don’t pull any punches.” Message received, Mrs. R! After your latest remarks about President Obama wanting to "kill Romney," though, you might consider dialing back on the kapow.

Now, nobody who is in the public eye every day gets off gaffe-free or phrases everything just as intended. Thank goodness, too, or our tightly scripted politics would be even more devoid of humanity and our elections even more in thrall to those scary voices in the ads.

But was Ann Romney’s over-the-top assertion that Obama’s campaign strategy can be summed up in two words - "kill Romney” - even an oopsie? I don’t think so, because later in the same joint CBS interview with her husband, she interrupted him to repeat herself.

Asked about the president’s suggestion that Romney lacks compassion, she said, "It makes you realize they’re going to do everything they can to destroy Mitt. . . . I feel like all Obama’s doing is saying, ’Let’s kill this guy.’ ”

Goodness, madam, didn’t we agree to demilitarize the language of politics after Gabby Giffords was shot last year? I don’t think that Ann Romney was being intentionally incendiary, so much as gleefully clueless.

Given the very real safety concerns every president faces, Ann Romney’s words make her seem more cosseted - protected, seemingly, from the worries Michelle Obama has to deal with in that regard - than Democrats have portrayed her to be.

And although nothing is more natural than taking criticism of one’s mate to heart, has she so soon forgotten her guy’s own take-no-prisoners handling of his fellow Republicans during the primary season?

Then there’s this: So far, nothing the president has said about Mitt matches the meanness of his fellow Republican Newt Gingrich’s Florida robocalls accusing Romney of denying kosher food to Holocaust survivors in nursing homes.

The worst Obama’s said about his rival, in the ad that pegged him as a "vampire capitalist" - was on a par with, and inspired by, Rick Perry calling him a "vulture capitalist."

Romney hasn’t been shy about criticizing the president, either, of course. For instance, saying that Obama, "almost sounded like he’s more frightened that Israel might take military action than he’s concerned that Iran might become nuclear."

The question about her response to criticism couldn’t have caught Ann Romney off-guard. In fact, I doubt she has ever given an interview in which she wasn’t asked how she deals with "attacks" on Mitt.

The two most predictable questions for aspiring first ladies are these: What worthy cause will you make your own? (Never, ever has an interesting answer been supplied in response to that one, which seems to have been inspired by the Miss America pageant.) And, what does she make of those nasty, unfair things the other side is saying about her man?

There usually is some oomph in the answer to that second one. But Ann Romney distinguished herself, saying, "Early on, we heard what their strategy was; it was ’kill Romney.’ That was the memo that came out from their campaign. It’s like, ’Not when I’m next to him, you better not.’ "

The Romneys shared a good long laugh over her response.

Then, she made good on her promise to be "pretty honest and pretty direct" - by hinting that Mitt would probably not be picking a female running mate. Yes, I’m aware that all the headlines said the opposite, but what she said is that they’re going to pick someone "Mitt will enjoy spending time with” who "has the same personality type” he does. Then, asked about the possibility of a female running mate, she said, oh yes, she likes that option, too.

"What she said,” her husband chimed in.

The better one gets to know a couple, in most cases, the less their surface differences obscure all they have in common.

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