Steven Senne, Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, addresses an audience as his wife Ann looks on during a campaign stop Sunday, March 18, 2012 in Moline, Ill.

In advance of Tuesday's Illinois primary, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spent Sunday actively targeting female voters in the Prairie State. And by his side every step of the way was his wife, Ann — quite possibly the most compelling voice in the Romney campaign arsenal.

ABC News reported that Ann Romney spoke directly and passionately to women at a pancake breakfast Sunday morning in western Illinois. "I love it that women are upset, too, that women are talking about the economy, I love that. Women are talking about jobs, women are talking about deficit spending. Thank you, women. We need you. We all need you in November, too. We have to remember why we’re upset and what we’ve got to do to fix things.”

Reporting from a Romney town hall meeting later in the day, Philip Rucker addressed the Mitt-and-Ann dynamic in his dispatch for the Washington Post. "Mitt Romney made a fresh appeal Sunday to middle-class moms who are frustrated by rising gas prices, hoping female voters can help speed up his slog to the Republican presidential nomination and rehabilitate his standing with independent voters. Opening a two-day campaign swing across Illinois heading into Tuesday’s critical primary, Romney and his wife, Ann, made a populist play for the support of women. … Romney is hoping a pocketbook pitch will pull female voters toward him and increase his lead over (Rick Santorum)."

Also, Politico's Maggie Haberman noted with interest that it was Ann Romney — not Mitt — who was the one on Sunday sounding the call for Republicans to unite behind Mitt Romney once and for all. "We need to send a message," Ann Romney said Sunday, "that it’s time to coalesce, it’s time to come together, it’s time for us to get behind one candidate and get the job done so we can move on to the next round, which will get us one step closer to defeating Barack Obama.”

As of Sunday night, the Real Clear Politics seven-day average for Illinois polling showed Romney leading Santorum, 37.7 to 31.3.