Mitt Romney’s ‘secret weapon’ is coming to Connecticut

Mitt Romney’s favorite and most important campaign surrogate — his wife, Ann — is coming to Connecticut on the eve of the state’s Republican primary to energize a friendly GOP base and headline the party’s annual fundraiser.

Ann Romney, 62, will be the keynote speaker at the Prescott Bush Dinner in Stamford on April 23, the night before Republican presidential primaries in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

In an up-and-down political season in which her husband often has struggled to connect with audiences, Ann Romney has emerged as one of his most important assets, a popular speaker often called the campaign’s “secret weapon.”

Ann & Mitt Romney

Ann and Mitt Romney

Mitt and Ann Romney celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary March 21, the day after he won the Illinois primary. She introduced him at the victory rally, and a picture of the couple is the first thing seen by visitors to the campaign website.

The Romney campaign confirmed her attendance Wednesday after 10 days of talks, said Jerry Labriola, the Connecticut GOP chairman.

By scheduling the Bush dinner the night before the primary, the GOP hoped to attract a keynote speaker capable of selling out a fundraiser crucial to a party that struggles financially, even though the state is home to major GOP donors.

Connecticut has been more generous to Mitt Romney than any other presidential candidate this cycle, providing him $2.7 million, with 80 percent of those dollars raised within easy driving distance of the Bush dinner at the Stamford Marriott.

Another reason for the stop is that an honoree at the dinner will be former Ambassador Tom Foley of Greenwich, a friend, fundraiser and fellow Harvard Business School graduate who is a chairman of Romney’s campaign steering committee in Connecticut.

Mitt Romney hosted a fundraising lunch for Foley in September 2010, when Foley was the GOP nominee for governor. Foley, who is seriously weighing another run in 2014, lost to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in the closest Connecticut gubernatorial race in 56 years.

John McCain won the Connecticut primary four years ago, despite Romney’s geographic advantage as the recent former governor of Massachusetts. Exit polling then showed that Romney was most popular with conservatives in Connecticut.

His wife has been in demand as a campaign speaker this year. Despite having multiple sclerosis, Ann Romney has been a constant presence on the campaign trail — and as a virtual campaigner.

The campaign has circulated an online “love letter” she created for their anniversary. She tells of realizing on her 16th birthday that she was falling in love with Romney.

“Mitt had this enormous energy, this enormous infection [sic] for life, the love of life,” she said. “I was very careful about not letting him know how I felt about him. I think that drove him crazy.”

Romney proposed soon after returning from 30 months as a Mormon missionary in France. They were married three months later. They have five sons and 16 grandchildren.