Conversation With Ann Romney, Wife of Republican Presidential Contender Mitt Romney


Feb. 14, 2007 — -- Ann Romney is a mother of five, grandmother to ten and the wife of Republican presidential contender and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Ann Romney was also diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998, but she insists that she's "totally onboard" with her husband's bid for the White House.

The aspiring first lady sat down with ABC News' Kate Snow, just a day after her husband entered the race. What follows are extended excerpts of their conversation.

Romney on the Run

Snow: Are you ready for this?

Romney: I don't think so! (Laughs) No, I don't think we can anticipate what it's going to be like. Just sort of like, we've walked through a door, and we'll see what happens.

Snow: And you are fully onboard with it?

Romney: Totally onboard with it.

Snow: Because I know when he wanted to run, run for governor.

Romney: I was not onboard with that. I was not onboard with that.

Snow: But this time's different?

Romney: Yeah, I think this time is different, because when the governor's race came, it was, we had just finished the most extraordinary experience at the Salt Lake Winter games, the Winter Olympics, and it was such a high, and everyone was pulling the wagon the same direction. We were all so thrilled, it was great, the world was there, they were successful, it was just this euphoric feeling, and I did not want to step immediately into something that is so negative, with the campaign, after that. I wanted to take a breath, I wanted to enjoy what we'd done.

Romney: in the Race "No Matter What"

Snow: How are you feeling?

Romney: This is another reason I'm willing to go through this, I'm feeling well. I am, my health is good.

Snow: How is it so good? I mean, it seemed almost like you, there's some strange magical secret that you've got that you've been able to hold it.

Romney: (Laughs) No, it's, it's been a process. I have MS, as I'm sure that, I don't know what my intro has been, but I do struggle with the disease, and right now, I feel completely healthy, and wonderful, and a lot of energy, and I feel blessed. And, but I, but I was very, very sick. A number of years ago, in 1998, '99, 2000, 2001, all those years, I was very --

Snow: A long time.

Romney: Very, sick.

Snow: You could hardly lift a piece of paper.

Romney: No, I was, I was at points, there were times in my life where I was so weakened by it, and so sick, and so fatigued, that I couldn't function normally at all, and honestly thought that was the way the rest of my life was going to be, so I do feel blessed, and I do feel strong and healthy, and I, I've done a number of different things to make myself healthy, and I also feel like I'm blessed on top of it, so I don't know, it's hard to know what I do, and you know, what, what makes it work for me. I also love horses.

Snow: You do a lot of riding.

Romney: I ride, I try to ride every day. This is going to maybe get, crimp into that style a little bit, but the horses bring me, again, just like my grandchildren, absolutely, just extraordinary joy. I love to ride.

Snow: And you do, just to make sure I'm right on this, you do some holistic things as well?

Romney: I do.

Snow: You do yoga?

Romney: I do holistic things, yoga and pilates. Reflexology, acupuncture. I, I'm very, very conscious of not eating a lot of sugar, and white flours, and I mean, I really try to just stay as healthy as I can.

Snow: Your son Tag said that your illness is one of the biggest challenges for the family. And he said to us recently, it's just seeing her and loving her so much and not wanting to see her go through difficult times, that's a struggle.

Romney: That's, I have to say that when you go through a trial like this, it is your family that rallies around you that allows you to be able to go through it. It was tough, and I have to say, I was not an example of strength and courage when I was going through it. I was pretty frightened. And when you really get down, I, I felt like I was completely crushed. Um, crushed, and it was, it was a scary thing, because I, in so many ways, it changed me. Um, I felt so, before I had the disease, just on top of things, and, energetic, and I could handle everything, and I did, I managed so much of our life, and all of the things that go on, as a mother, and all those things that you do, and I thought I was doing it just, very, sort of, in a strange kind of way, a kind of pride in everything that I did so well, and then all of a sudden, it was all taken away, and I could do nothing. And then you're left with who am I? And why did I have to, why is the rest of my life going to be so miserable, and why, you know, feeling pretty sorry for myself.

Um, and so not only did I, have I changed physically, I feel like I've changed from the inside as well. And this sense of, of stripping away all the pride and looking really at your core, and saying what's left (laughs) is only inside your heart, and then going from there, and for me, my husband was there for me when I really was at my lowest point. But it's changed me in another way, too. And that is that I look at everyone differently now. And I look at everything in life differently. Um, I take great joy in small things. Um, I look at everyone and recognize and, and I call it the bag of rocks. I see everyone, if you live long enough, has trouble of one kind or another. For me, it was physical, and with health.

For other people, it can be death, illness, divorce, depression, so many things, and struggles that we go through in life, and if you were to look at me, you would not see that there is anything wrong, but you don't know that I, behind my back I'm carrying my bag of rocks. And now, I look at everyone and think, they've got their own bag of rocks. I can't see them, or what they're carrying, and the burdens they're carrying, it's just made me a little bit more compassionate, and a little bit more, a little, I hope, less judgmental, and I, I also hope that it's um, the other day, I look at people and I say, most people are doing the best they can, and we don't understand or recognize where they're coming from. But I think more people struggle than we, than we know.

Snow: That is such a wonderful message. Um, what happens if you get sick again. I hate to ask, even, but, but if it comes back? Do you tell your husband forget it, I'm not running?

Romney: No, that is part of this decision process that we went through, was all along, my health, my health, my health, my health. And for, for both of us, if my health were to deteriorate, he was not going to run. But we also decided that once we crossed, crossed that threshold, that he was going forward, that he was making a commitment.

Snow: No matter what?

Romney: No matter what. He was going to go forward. And that was a commitment that I made him promise to make. Because I know what he would feel naturally like doing, if I do get sick again. At this point, I, I know that he's doing what he's supposed to be doing, and I'm very confident that my health will stay there, so, but if he, if my health just starts to deteriorate, he still has to go forward, and we will see what happens.

Abortion Contradictions

Snow: (Former Governor Romney has) been criticized for shifting his views, particularly about abortion. A couple of years ago, he, he changed his view on it. He's talked to us about it. My understanding is that his original view, when he said in '94 that he was for abortion rights, was driven in a large part by a family member of yours who, unfortunately, died as a result of an abortion. Now, he's saying that he's not for abortion rights at all. How do you reconcile, that's your family member too.

Romney: In-law. You know, he is, people evolve. His position on life, he's firmly pro life. He has come to this, I think through his decisions and things that happened as he was Governor, and he is just clearly knows where he is, and he, he's firmly pro life.

Snow: And you agree with him on that?

Romney: Yes.

Against Embryonic Stem Cell Research Despite MS

Snow: Stem cell research is another area that he's asked about a lot. He, he's essentially for limited amounts of embryonic (stem cell research)?

Romney: He is in favor, he's in favor of stem cell research. He is hopeful, as we all are, that there will be cures with stem cell research. He is not in favor of cloning...he sees it as sort of, of babies being developed for research, and I don't know, he, for him, that was the, that was the ethical line that he felt that life had been cheapened.

Snow: But this is a tough question, but if he is against most embryonic stem cell research, that's the very research that might help someone just like you.

Romney: That's why this discussion was very heartfelt, and went on for months. Um, and I, was, I'm also pro life, and am opposed to research for, the developing, cloning of embryos, for research.

Snow: Even if it could potentially help you some day, people like you?

Romney: You know, you know, I have to say yes, and, and I, you know, I pray for a cure for MS, and I'm, I'm very supportive of research for MS, and there's many other ways, you know, for, hopefully for us to get there. But it is, it is one of those life questions. Is my life more important than a child's, another child's life, and I, I see it as a life that they would be experimenting on. To maybe make me better, and I, how do you, that's why it's hard. These decisions are very, very hard. They, they tear you apart. But how do you balance that life?

The Mormon Factor

Snow: I want to ask a few questions about your faith, and about religion, because it is such a topic, as you know, of conversation. Every time I think Romney's name, your husband's name comes up…it's mentioned. You converted.

Romney: I did.

Snow: To the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Romney: I did. I did when Mitt was away. He, he and I dated in High School, and I started first to ask him, you know, what do Mormons believe? When I was a, I think a sophomore in high school. And he left and went to Stanford for a year, and then off for two and a half years to serve a mission for his church in France, and during that time, Mitt's father was wonderful, and, took me to church on Sundays, occasionally. And I came to that on my own. It was, it was a good thing that I did.

Snow: Not something he asked you to do?

Romney: Not something he asked me to do, and when he came home, we were still in love, and we got married pretty quickly after that, and the five boys followed.

Snow: So as someone who converted to the church, and was once on the outside, can you understand people's apprehensions about it?

Romney: Yes. (Laughs)Romney: I've been both places.

Snow: They don't understand it.

Romney: There's no, there's a lot of misperception. A lot of misunderstanding and misperceptions about, about the church, and that's unfortunate. It's, um, I, I had them too, before I joined. And so it's um, there's a lot that needs to be done to educate people about it, and to have an understanding that, um, basically we share the same values as probably most faiths.

Snow: In our latest ABC poll where we asked about this, 35 percent of Americans said they'd be less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who was Mormon.

Romney: And I think that the difference is that once they get to know this Mormon, they're fine with it. (Laughs)

Snow: It's not about, it's not about his religion? I know he has said that, that he would, he would answer to the constitution.

Romney: No, of course.

Snow: Do you think he has to give a speech about it, though? Do you think he has to do sort of a Kennedy-esque (speech)?

Romney: Well, I personally think he does. We'll see whether his staff and whether my husband comes to that same conclusion, and I'm actually anxious for that to happen.

Snow: People do have crazy ideas.

Romney: They do.

Snow: I mean, I know you know this. That show, Big Love.

Romney: I know, and that's so unfortunate.

Snow: It's really unfortunate.

Romney: It's, unfortunately, you know, polygamy, is, (laughs) Mitt has only one wife and polygamy has been outlawed in the United States for a long time, and you know, if you are involved in polygamy, you are excommunicated, there is, polygamy is not any part of this church.

Snow: In, in some ways, do you, do you like that you're going to be able to spread that message? That you're going to be able to shed a little light on a faith that people don't know much about?

Romney: No, I don't know if that's a byproduct of it, and it's not why we're doing this, but I, I would hope that all of these things bring light to everything where we, where people have misperceptions about not just this faith, but maybe someone else's faith, and that, and again, it was that same experience that I learned, um, with my MS, and coming to the conclusion that you really need to look to the heart and soul of someone, and see where they're coming from. And certainly if people look at our heart and soul, they will understand that we're in this race to make a difference, and to help, and that we share the values of most Americans, and um, yes, we have our faith, and you know, we do believe that Jesus Christ is our personal savior, so, you know, I think that a lot of people need to, to maybe get used to.

Snow: Could you see voting for someone who's faith you don't understand well? For example, I don't know, someone who is a member of Islam, or, or Jewish? Would you have any trouble?

Romney: I would hope that people take the measure of the man or the woman. And, and take that, and recognize too, that people have faith traditions that may be a little different, but looking for the similarities that, that bind us together.

The Human Factor

Snow: The columnists weren't very kind to you, maybe you didn't read it, but in 1994, some of them called you a Stepford wife. They weren't very kind about it.

Romney: No.

Snow: They thought you were too perfect. What do you, what do you say to them? Here's your chance. What do you, what do you say to people who say, you're just, it's cookie cutter, it's too perfect?

Romney: Well, you know, those, those things happen, and that's why I don't like the print media as much, um, and they're able to characterize things I think in ways that you don't like.

Snow: Did you ever get angry?

Romney: Yeah, I did. That, that really did make me angry.

Snow: Does Mitt get angry?

Romney: Oh, yeah.

Snow: He doesn't swear, right?

Romney: On occasion.

Snow: He does on occasion (laughs) About ten years ago, you said you had never heard him swear, but now you have?

Romney: (Laughs) Probably when that article came out. (Laughs) No, this, you know, obviously he has, he has moments, and I do too. Where you know, you lose, you lose.

Snow: You're human.

Romney: Yep.

Snow: You lose your cool.

Romney: Lose your cool!

Snow: But he does seem very level.

Romney: He's very measured, and he's very practical, and he really, he really loves to evaluate problems, and to be level headed about it. He was very good in raising the boys. I have to say that, I'd come home, you know, I'd want to be pulling my hair, with these five boys. He was very good.

You can read another ABC News original article or watch the "Good Morning America" video on Kate Snow's conversation with Ann Romney by clicking here.

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