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Tampa, Fla. • With tales of Mitt Romney's little-known humor paired with tear-jerking stories, Ann Romney on Tuesday offered up the softer side of her husband in an attempt to bolster his personal appeal to voters.
With plenty of speakers at the Republican National Convention touting Romney's business background and ideas for taking the country in a different direction, Ann Romney stressed the points only she could: the devoted husband, the playful grandfather and the guy who finishes off his honey-do list with glee.
"This is the man who will wake up every day with the determination to solve the problems that others say can't be solved, to fix what others say is beyond repair," Ann Romney said during her prime-time debut. "This is the man who will work harder than anyone so that we can work a little less hard."
Occasionally seen on the campaign trail, Ann Romney isn't as well known as the GOP presidential nominee. Yet.
With a new poll showing some 42 percent of Americans with a favorable opinion of Ann Romney, her moment in the sun Tuesday is likely a preview of an effort to show her husband in a new light, one that voters can relate to personally.
"Everyone knows about Governor Romney, candidate Romney, the man who saved the Olympics," says Kevin Madden, a senior campaign adviser. "Now they'll get to see him as a father, a husband, a grandfather. Ann knows him better than anybody and she can help explain to Americans why he'd make a great president."
With an adoring crowd occasionally shouting "we love you, Ann," the first lady hopeful painted a real life image of her family after 43 years of marriage, five sons, scares with cancer and a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
"I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a 'storybook marriage,'" she said. "Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once. And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or breast cancer.
"A storybook marriage? No, not at all," she added. "What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage."
The line drew sustained cheers from the convention crowd.
Those who know the Romneys say they're excited for Americans to learn the behind-the-camera details that show the Romneys are regular people with their own challenges and personal struggles.
Sue Brethen Lapelle, who went to high school with Ann Romney and once dated Mitt Romney, says Ann is the ideal messenger to break the stereotype that many Americans have of Mitt Romney.
"He comes off as a stiff entrepreneur, ya know, just going to get the job done at any cost, but it's not that way. He is caring," Lapelle said. And that's where Ann Romney comes in.
"She humanizes him," Lapelle said.
That's exactly the role that's needed, says former Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, a Romney backer.
"Ann Romney is not a common political wife," Bennett says. "She will represent something different, something new."
The not-so-political wife tried to give her husband a political boost, though, listing attribute after attribute.
"At every turn in his life, this man I met at a high school dance, has helped lift up others," she said. "He did it with the Olympics, when many wanted to give up."
After extended standing ovations from a crowd eating up every word some of the applause cued by a TelePrompter, some spontaneous Ann Romney cut to the chase, speaking to delegates but also to potential voters.
"I can't tell you what will happen over the next four years," she said. "But I can only stand here tonight, as a wife, a mother, a grandmother, an American, and make you this solemn commitment: This man will not fail. This man will not let us down. This man will lift up America."
Beyond the kind words for Mitt Romney, who watched from a box seat in the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Ann Romney also showed who she is a move that could help them both.
"She's a cool, beautiful wife that adores him," says Donlu Thayer, a Provo resident who spent time in France with Ann Romney for a semester abroad while at Brigham Young University. "So he can't be a dud."