ABC’s Michael Falcone and Amy Walter report:
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Ann Romney has five children, but if you ask her, she actually has six.
“Mitt is not what you think at home,” Mrs. Romney said at a campaign event on Friday designed to court women voters in Iowa. “He is my most disobedient child.”
Her attempts to create an atmosphere of “family decorum,” were constantly thwarted by Mitt, who Mrs. Romney said “liked to get them going and get them riled up.”
In fact, Mrs. Romney’s description of life with her husband of 42 years sounded downright rowdy.
“The five boys — can you imagine at the dinner table — they never behaved,” she said, “and Mitt was the worst of all.”
Turning to her son, Josh, who appeared with his mother on Friday, Mrs. Romney asked, “Josh, can you think of a serious moment we ever really had at the dinner table?” (Josh did not volunteer one.)
Her husband’s presidential campaign has deployed Mrs. Romney with greater frequency and in more prominent ways than ever before this week. Over the last seven days, she’s headlined campaign events in New Hampshire and Iowa, sat for a Fox News television interview and on Saturday she will join Josh Romney and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty for a rally at the campaign’s Iowa headquarters.
At Friday’s gathering, billed as a “Women For Mitt,” event, Mrs. Romney stuck to her Mitt-as-family-man script — one that she has been driving home with renewed intensity as the Romney campaign seeks to sharpen the contrast with Newt Gingrich. Her goal over the next few weeks, she said, will be to talk to voters about “the other side of Mitt that you never hear about.”
She never once mentioned Gingrich, who has been married three times, but her message was unmistakable.
“The quote that we kind of grew up with as a motto in our home was, ‘no other success can compensate for failure in the home,’” Mrs. Romney said. “That was something that was reinforced by Mitt all the time, and he had that basic value from that early, early time in our marriage.”
Mrs. Romney spoke to about two-dozen women in a West Des Moines family’s living room festooned with Christmas decorations, speaking at length about how Mitt helped her through struggles with breast cancer and multiple sclerosis.
The mother of five also said that Mitt often reminded her “that what I was doing was more important than what he was doing — that my job was much more important than his.”
But in contrast to the warm images of home and family Mrs. Romney offered in her remarks, her assessment of the country was bleak: “I feel like that shining city on a hill that is America — that light is dimming.”
“We all want the America of tomorrow to be what the America of yesterday was,” she said.