Snapshots of some of the women who could become the next first lady of the United States

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 2 2007 4:31 p.m. MDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — A political consultant, two lawyers and a pair of battle-tested veterans of presidential campaigns are in the thick of the fight for the White House, urging their spouses on, promoting causes close to their heart and sharing a recipe or two in a nod to tradition.

Two of the prospective first ladies are managing life-threatening diseases. One would be the first woman of color with the title. A third recently completed her latest humanitarian trip, to Vietnam.

All but one are mothers, including of young children. One's a grandmother of 10, too.

The nation has a variety of women to get to know in the campaign, quite apart from the very well-known former first lady who's running for president in her own right.

In a race marked by the spectacle of a two-term president, Bill Clinton, promoting wife Hillary Rodham Clinton for the White House, these women carry on the tradition of spouse as potential first lady, but not always in traditional ways.

Ann Romney talks about her multiple sclerosis in campaign travels and on her new Web site, where she also offers a recipe for her grandmother's Welsh skillet cakes with more dishes to come. Elizabeth Edwards talks about her cancer and takes feisty shots at husband John's competition. Michelle Obama tells funny tales about the juggling she does to get two girls off to school and herself to work.

"First ladies, first kids. It helps us relate to them. It helps to humanize them," says Robert Watson, author of two books about first ladies and the director of American studies at Lynn University in Florida.

A look at seven of them:

ANN ROMNEY

She is the girl who, at 15, became smitten with an 18-year-old Mitt Romney and then waited for him while he went to college and then to France to complete traditional missionary service for the Mormon church.

As days turned to months and then years, his father, George, watched over Ann, an Episcopalian, and helped convert her to the Mormon faith. Then she went off to Brigham Young University to wait for her future husband.

They wed in 1969, three months after he came home.

She is one of the weapons the Romney campaign is using to appeal to the GOP's social conservatives by setting him apart from his major rivals, who are in second and third marriages, including two with significantly younger wives. On Monday, she posted her own Web site.

She told supporters at a campaign event that the biggest difference between them and her husband is that "he's had only one wife." She's also been introduced as Romney's starter wife and trophy wife "all in one" — another dig at the opposition.

The mother of five grown sons and grandmother of 10, Ann Romney, 57, has devoted her life to the men in it. She has said she was both satisfied and privileged to have been able to stay at home, but she also has talked about how "exasperating and overwhelming" it was to be the only female in a house overflowing with testosterone.

As first lady of Massachusetts, Ann Romney was active in teen pregnancy prevention and faith-based work with inner-city children. She was the administration's chief liaison to religious and faith-based social service organizations.

Nearly a decade ago, she began to feel numbness in her right leg. It spread, leaving her right side without feeling. There was fatigue, then depression, then self pity. Doctors diagnosed multiple sclerosis around Thanksgiving 1998.

She says the MS is in remission and she takes no medication to treat it. Instead, she relies on alternative and holistic treatments, such as her lifelong pursuit of horseback riding. "Joy therapy," she calls it.

Last year, she won a gold medal for the United States Dressage Federation at the Grand Prix level.

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