Presidential hopefuls' spouses come under scrutiny

By Beth Fouhy

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 18 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

"My wife and I, we have a family life, and she is maintaining the calmness and the tranquility of that family life," Cain said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Cain told The Associated Press that his wife "is a lot more introverted than I am" but said he expects she'll make an appearance with him around Thanksgiving.

"Campaigns can be grueling, and I like my wife," he said Saturday. "I want to keep her alive so she can hold that Bible when they swear me in as president."

Carol Paul, Texas Rep. Ron Paul's wife, in also an infrequent campaigner.

The absence of a spouse can be problematic for a presidential front-runner. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean learned that in 2004 when he was competing for the Democratic nomination and his wife, Judith Steinberg Dean, refused to leave her medical practice to campaign with him. She eventually did so but only after his campaign faltered in Iowa, the first nominating contest.

Struggling to gain traction, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has cast his marriage to his wife, Karen, as central to his candidacy, in which he has sought to highlight conservative social issues. The two have seven children, including a daughter born with severe birth defects. Another son died shortly after birth.

Introducing his wife at a conservative gathering earlier this month, Santorum suggested candidates should be judged on their spouses.

"When you look at someone to determine whether they'd be the right person for public office, look at who they lay down with at night and what they believe in," Santorum told the Values Voter summit.

Spouses have caused problems for some of the candidates this year.

Marcus Bachmann proved to be a distraction for his wife, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, when he was forced to defend his Christian counseling business from claims its therapies include "curing" gay patients. Michele Bachmann had actively opposed gay rights throughout her political career, but the controversy around her husband's clinic came as she was trying to focus her presidential bid on the economy and taxes.

Newt Gingrich this summer was pressed on why he had maintained a $500,000 line of credit at Tiffany's, presumably to purchase expensive jewelry for his third wife, Callista. The former House speaker also left the campaign in its early months to take a Mediterranean cruise with Callista, a decision that caused most of his campaign staff to quit.

The two carried on a 6-year affair while Gingrich was married to his second wife and was pressing for Bill Clinton's impeachment for involvement with a White House intern. Gingrich has sought to portray his marriage to Callista as a deeply committed partnership. The couple campaigns extensively together, and Callista's new children's book, "Sweet Land of Liberty," has become a best seller.

Until her remarks in South Carolina, Anita Perry had been a relatively low-key presence on the campaign trail, as she was during her husband's three campaigns for Texas governor. She's often appeared with Perry at events but rarely spoke. She made an exception at a campaign event in Iowa, reminding her husband, during his defense of in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants, to mention that the students must be pursuing U.S. citizenship.

"Family members always take these campaigns a little more personally than the candidates do," Perry told NBC News when asked about his wife's comments on religion.

Rider University's Gutin went further: "Mrs. Perry needs to realize that if her husband becomes the Republican nominee, this is just the beginning."

Associated Press writers Charles Babington in Washington, Shannon McCaffrey in Atlanta and Steve Peoples in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.

Beth Fouhy can be found on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bfouhy

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