Mitt Romney’s daughters-in-law talk about joining the family and pay tribute to Ann Romney

TAMPA — Laurie Romney was at the Romney household years ago when she spied a perfect-looking peach pie on the kitchen counter, complete with a carefully constructed lattice top.

“I literally thought to myself, ‘I cannot marry into this family,’ ” she said Wednesday morning. “Because I could never do that.”

During a tribute to the potential future first lady, all five of Ann Romney’s daughters-in-law took the microphone for brief remarks. It was a rare instance in which they were in the public eye, in a week when their husbands are frequently on television.

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“I was nervous and I was intimidated by their family,” confessed Laurie Romney, who married Matt.

It’s a feeling that the Romney campaign is now eager to dispel for the country, hoping to make American voters feel as though Mitt Romney — and his family — are just like them. Throughout the campaign, Romney has struggled to forge an emotional connection with voters, and has been repeatedly criticized by Democrats for how he earned his wealth.

But during the convention, his advisers are hoping that by showcasing his family life he can come across in softer ways. On Tuesday night, Ann Romney energized the convention with a speech designed to highlight a more nuanced view of her husband.

Ann Romney is likely to play a prominent role during the coming weeks of the race, according to campaign advisers who were almost giddy with her performance Tuesday night. They are trying to balance how much to have her on the campaign trail alone, and how much with Mitt Romney, who is often a smoother campaigner when she is by his side. They are also aware of her multiple sclerosis, and don’t want to overtire her.

“A lot of America discovered Ann last night,” said Ron Kaufman, a longtime Romney adviser. “She continues to be, as she always has been, a valuable asset to the campaign.”

Over the past several days, the five Romney sons have made numerous appearances on television, helping portray a lighter side to their father. But Wednesday, during a fund-raiser breakfast at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, it was the daughters-in-law who spoke out.

“The one thing I really love about Ann is she’s a really modern feminist,” Andelyne Romney said. “She’s kind of the 21st-century woman. She is so comfortable in her own skin and I promise, that’s for real.”

A stay-at-home mom wanting to go back to school, she said she has learned from Ann Romney that “anything is possible.”

“Whenever I’m having trouble communicating with my husband, I tend to channel Ann,” she added.

Laurie Romney — who confessed that she once couldn’t make macaroni and cheese from a box — said Ann Romney took her under her wing and taught her how to cook, how to support her husband, and “to not always weigh him down with all of the little hard things that happened during the day but to be positive.”

“From her I have learned not only to cook, but to shop for heels, to decorate a home,” said Mary Romney. “I only hope that one day that my boys respect and love me half as much as my husband and his brothers respect and love their mother.”

They kidded each other over whose husband was better looking. “As my grandma always says, he’s the cutest Romney boy out of all five,” Laurie Romney said of Matt. “I disagree with Laurie,” said Jen Romney. “I think I’m married to the cutest one of all. I’m married to Josh. Yeah, Josh!”

Mary Romney, who married Craig, noted, “I am married to the baby of the family, Craig.”

“I’m married to the blond one,” said Andelyne Romney, who married Ben. “The one that stands out. That kind of resembles Ann, and I call the smart one.”