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Associated Press
In this Sept. 5, 2011 file photo Ann Romney looks at her husband, Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, after introducing him to a crowd on Labor Day in Manchester, N.H. Ann, Mitt's wife of 42 years, is quietly playing a growing role in her husband's campaign.

Ann Romney recently told a crowd of women in South Carolina that when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998 she thought: "My life is finished. My life is over." She says it was Mitt, her husband of 42 years, who pulled her out of that dark time. She says he told her: "You're still here. We're still together. We will get through this together." Ann Romney went on to say how Mitt's steadfastness in difficult times is what makes him the ideal candidate to lead the country reported the Washington Post.

These sorts of stories are part of a new effort by the Romney campaign to show a "compelling three-dimensional portrait" of Mitt Romney. Ann Romney's increased visibility comes at a time when Mitt Romney's presidential hopes are endangered by a surging Newt Gingrich.

The spouses of candidates can be "huge assets" said Catherine Allgor, professor of political science at the University of California Riverside in an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press. "They can be symbols of their spouse's campaign, sending out psychological signals about their true character. When someone goes into the voting booth, how they feel about a person's character, and whether they believe that politician is a good person, is often very much shaped by the spouse."

The Romney campaign hopes that Ann will be able to soften voters impressions of a candidate who is called stiff and out of touch. She has appeared at events in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Washington offering up the "side of Mitt you don't often hear about."

Ann tells potential supporters about Mitt's favorite foods, mayhem at the family dinner table, and their family motto. "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.' 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." reports the Washington Post.

In addition to including Ann Romney in more campaign activities, Mitt has started opening up about his Mormon faith. Although four years ago he barely brought his religion up,"in recent days he has has invoked his time as a missionary and church pastor to explain how he, a man whose net worth is estimated at $200 million, can relate to the everyday concerns of average Americans."