In an interview last fall, Ann Romney made clear that her husband’s political career — and his family’s support for it — were over.
“Done,” she told The Los Angeles Times in October. “Completely. Not only Mitt and I are done, but the kids are done. Done. Done. Done.”
But it seems Mrs. Romney is not quite through after all.
As the couple trek to Republican gatherings in San Diego and Mr. Romney woos donors in New York, he and his supporters have sought to convey the seriousness with which he is considering a candidacy by pointing out that his wife of 45 years is fully on board. (“Very encouraging” is how Mr. Romney described it.)
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Mitt Romney with his wife, Ann, at the Republican National Committee’s meeting Friday at the Midway museum in San Diego.Romney Signals Interest in 2016 Run for PresidentJAN. 17, 2015
Advisers said the couple realized in recent months that there was a viable, if complicated, path for Mr. Romney to the White House in 2016, and they are enticed by early polls showing him with strong support. Mrs. Romney, herself a competitor who ran for local office in her 20s and has excelled on tennis courts and dressage arenas — believes deeply that her husband owes it to the country to take a serious look at running a third time, the advisers say.
The touting of her enthusiasm for another run underscores the extent to which Mrs. Romney has been a constant force in not only supporting, but in some ways, propelling her husband’s political career forward.
“Ann believes that if someone can make a difference they should, and she believes very, very strongly that Mitt is capable of making a difference. I’ve heard her express that fundamental concept again and again,” said Grant Bennett, a friend of the couple who succeeded Mr. Romney as bishop in the Mormon Church in Belmont, Mass.
Mrs. Romney declined to comment for this article, but some of her husband’s advisers said he needed to explicitly state his wife’s support after her rather emphatic expressions that, after his defeat in 2012, she was not signing up for another campaign.
In September, Mrs. Romney said on Fox News that she thought Jeb Bush “probably will end up running,” and that “he would draw on a very similar base that we would draw on.” In October she was more definitive. “At this moment, it’s ‘no’ for Mitt and for the boys,” she told The Washington Post. “Honestly, we’ll have to see what happens. But we have no plans and I don’t imagine circumstances changing.”
(She wasn’t exactly off message. Asked last January whether he would consider running, Mr. Romney said: “Oh, no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no.”)
But Mrs. Romney’s current position is also a return to form.
One summer morning in 1993, the couple were lying in bed when Mrs. Romney made her pitch that the time had come for her husband to stop complaining about the rakish behavior of their senator, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, and try to take his seat instead.
“I said, ‘Mitt, you’ve got to run,’ ” she recalled to The Boston Globe, invoking his family’s legacy in public office.
Her husband responded by pulling the covers over his head.
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Mr. Bennett described Mrs. Romney as the “driving force” behind his 1994 run.
In the book “A Mormon in the White House?” by Hugh Hewitt, Mrs. Romney’s brother, Jim Davies, told the author that “she really believed he could win and thus was born Mitt’s career in politics.” Ann, he added at the time, “will simply not let up or give in.”
When Kem Gardner, a Utah developer and former mission president for the Mormon Church in Boston, pitched Mr. Romney on heading the Olympics, he approached Ann first. Despite learning she had multiple sclerosis, Mrs. Romney urged her husband to take the job of chairman, which resurrected him as a public figure, and ultimately led to a successful run for governor of Massachusetts in 2002.
And after Mr. Romney lost his first bid for president in 2008, he said that any future campaigns would be contingent on his wife’s health.
“Right after the race in 2008, I was at a very small gathering with some friends, and he was asked if he would run again, and immediately, without any thought he said, ‘Oh, well that all depends on Ann’s health,’ ” recalled Mr. Bennett. “If her health is good we would consider it and if it isn’t good, we wouldn’t consider it.”
But her health has improved, and through hard work and horseback riding, she has remained active, giving inspirational talks, including one in Palm Beach, Fla., this month, about overcoming the challenge of neurological disease. Like her husband, she has also gained strength from a faith that provides them with a sense of personal and political purpose.
When Dennis King, an old friend of Mr. Romney’s, attended a California fund-raiser during the 2008 race, he asked Mrs. Romney why her husband was subjecting himself to the indignities of modern political campaigning.
“That’s what God wanted him to do,” Mr. King said she had responded.
In the interlude between campaign cycles, Mrs. Romney, 65, appeared fulfilled. In October of 2013 she released her cookbook, “The Romney Family Table.” Before that, in June 2013, she welcomed the birth of a black foal, “the newest member of the Romney clan” as she called it on Twitter. Last August, she thanked her husband for nominating her to take the Ice Bucket Challenge and hosted “all 34” Romneys in New Hampshire “for fun, food and, of course, our annual family picture. The best kind of chaos.”
She even seemed a little tired of the celebrity surrounding her family. At the Palm Beach event, she said she had taken to appearing in public without makeup or doing her hair, making her less recognizable. Her 67-year-old husband, meanwhile, hid from cellphone shutterbugs in airport bathrooms.
But she has been at the forefront of the effort to bring more attention and resources to brain research. In October, she joined with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, to create the Ann Romney Center for Neurological Diseases, a laboratory seeking cures for Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and other diseases, to which the Romneys pledged to raise $50 million.
“From one of the wounded, you have become one of the warriors,” Mr. Romney wrote in a public love letter posted online last October.
Correction: January 16, 2015
An earlier version of this article misstated the year a fund-raiser was held where Dennis King asked Ann Romney why her husband was running for president. It was 2008, not 2012.
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