Political spouses analyzed during election years

Published 6:51 pm Wednesday, January 23, 2008

By By Steve Flowers
Political campaign gurus and insiders have always known that there is a difference between running for a legislative, congressional or senatorial seat versus a race for mayor, governor or president. The big difference is that voters do not seem to scrutinize the personal and family life of a lawmaker or congressman. They are one of a body of people and people tend to vote more on pure name identification or party affiliation. They especially prefer to vote for incumbents.
Interestingly, when polled about the legislature or congress they will rate the body as a whole as a bunch of degenerate idiots who they detest and distrust. However, within the same poll they will rate their legislator or congressman very highly and will rank him or her as the most popular politico in their county or area.
By contrast they want to know about the spouse of their mayor, governor, or president. The spouse is very scrutinized and analyzed. The spouse of a chief executive is important politically. The electorate wants to get a glimpse of the family of the candidate for an executive post, whereas voters tend to care less or do not know whether their congressman is even married.
As the presidential race begins to crystallize the presidential aspirants’ spouses are being given the third degree once over look. On the democratic side, all three aspirants left standing have spouses that are lawyers like they themselves. The Clintons met while in law school at Yale. The Edwards had the same scenario as the Clintons at the University of North Carolina School of Law.
Hillary Clinton has a very well known spouse. Bill Clinton is working hard to become a member of the first spouse’s club. This couple is the most closely watched. If they are successful they will be the first husband and wife team to both be President of the United States, a precedent which may never be matched in history.
Hillary’s rival, Senator Barack Obama, has a solid one wife personal history. He and his wife, Michelle, have been married twenty years and have two children. His wife and children are an integral part of his campaign. It is a sacrifice to them financially to make the run for president. Michelle Obama is a very successful Chicago lawyer. She earns a lot more than her husband Barack and was his supervisor in the large Chicago law firm where they both practiced before his election to the U.S. Senate.
Elizabeth Edwards has been the biggest spouse asset in the 2008 campaign. Elizabeth has been the star of husband John Edwards’ campaign. John and Elizabeth Edwards have been married for thirty-six years. She has almost become the dominate figure in Edwards’ run. She campaigns full-time despite her breast cancer recurrence.
All three of the democratic frontrunners have had one marriage and are married to their original spouses. In contrast, three of the republican candidates have all been divorced. An ironic twist considering the Republican Party espouses itself as the party of family values.
Rudy Giuliani and his wife Judith have six marriages between them, three each. They have the most colorful personal life. They were openly dating while Giuliani was Mayor of New York and married to his second wife. These shenanigans at Gracie Mansion were bountiful fodder for the New York media during his tenure as Mayor of the Big Apple.
Former Tennessee Senator, Fred Thompson, is on his second wife who is twenty-four years younger than him. John and Cindy McCain have been married a while but he is a good bit older than her and she is his second wife. The strikingly attractive Mrs. McCain openly detests presidential politics. She reluctantly and sparingly participated in her husband’s 2000 run, but is more involved this time.
Mitt Romney, however, has an “Ozzie and Harriet” family profile. Ann and Mitt Romney have been married for thirty-eight years. They have five sons and ten grandchildren and are a family campaign team. Ann and the sons are indefatigable and effective campaigners who adoringly praise their husband and father. Ann proudly declares that “motherhood was my career.” Mitt Romney has been successful at everything he has done in life. He has amassed a net worth of $300 million on Wall Street and is using some of his personal wealth in the campaign.
The republican surprise, Mike Huckabee, is a Baptist minister who like Romney has only been married once.
As the race narrows down to two candidates, the spouses will receive massive scrutiny.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.