Ann Romney’s unexpected rock star status has the political arena buzzing about how her husband’s campaign will leverage her popularity in an election in which Michelle Obama — one of the most admired first ladies in history — will have an outsized and substantive portfolio.

Indeed, this 62-year-old grandmother’s contribution to Mitt Romney’s campaign could amount to the most relevant role a wife has ever played in a presidential effort — softening the edges of a flawed and awkward candidate who struggles to connect with voters.

As Romney closes in on his party’s nomination, Obama campaign officials and strategists view Ann Romney as a wild card in the fall campaign — a skilled and articulate advocate whose full power has yet to be unleashed. If she’s armed with a passionate vision for a Romney White House, the opposition believes she could emerge as a compelling surrogate for her husband around the country.

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