CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In the heated presidential battle, first lady Michelle Obama and Ann Romney have in common the major campaign assignment of turning out female votes for their husbands — and letting the public know more about the men they love.
Both women were opening night keynoters at their respective conventions where they were featured as just moms, talking about their love stories, to make it easier for people to relate to President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
“I didn’t think it was possible,” Mrs. Obama said in her speech Tuesday, “but today, I love my husband even more than I did four years go, even more than I did 23 years ago, when we first met.”
In Tampa last week, Mrs. Romney said, “I want to talk to you about love.
“I want to talk to you about the deep and abiding love I have for a man I met at a dance many years ago. And the profound love I have, and I know we share, for this country. I want to talk to you about that love so deep only a mother can fathom it — the love we have for our children and our children’s children.”
The mushy stuff aside, the two women have little in common except their ambition to win the White House, their stylish, age-appropriate fashion taste and their absolute refusal — so far — to engage in the brutal political attacks that are marking the Obama-Romney race.
Not that Mrs. Romney is above some counterprogramming. She isn’t. Mrs. Romney on Wednesday headlines a rally in the battlground state of Ohio that will steal some of the national spotlight from Mrs. Obama in Charlotte, where on Wednesday she visits with African-American, Hispanic and gay Democratic delegates and mingles with major donors.
At different times, each was a reluctant campaigner. Mrs. Obama recalled her initial hesitation Tuesday night.
“Back when we first came together four years ago, I still had some concerns about this journey we’d begun,” she recalled.
The two women — chief surrogates for their husbands — are at different stages in life and that informs their remarks on the campaign trail: Mrs. Obama, 48, is the mother of two daughters, 11 and 14.
Mrs. Romney, 63, is the mother of five adult sons and grandmother of 18.
Mrs. Obama is the product of Chicago public schools — proud graduate of Whitney Young High School — with an elite education at Princeton and Harvard Law.
Mrs. Romney attended an exclusive private high school in Michigan and Brigham Young University.
Mrs. Obama is a physical fitness buff, likes to show off her push-ups, hula hoop skill and dance moves and wears sleeveless outfits (as she did Tuesday) to highlight her very sculpted upper arms.
Mrs. Romney has significant health challenges, battling MS and breast cancer. An equestrian, the sport she is identified with is dressage.
They each chose very different paths as adults.
Ann Lois Davis married Mitt Romney as soon as they finished college and immediately started raising her large family, eventually taking on duties as the first lady of Massachusetts when Romney was governor. She’s had few significant financial worries.
Michelle Robinson wed Barack Obama after she was already an attorney and worked at four jobs as she had her kids: a Chicago law firm, City Hall, a nonprofit and the University of Chicago. Mrs. Obama to this day complains about being cash-strapped during most of their marriage.
Plunged into roles they didn’t exactly choose, each now is a major campaign asset, deployed to battleground states and used often to headline events targeting women.
Mrs. Romney has the bigger job: Obama ran away with the female vote in 2008 and is way ahead of Romney with women in 2012.