Presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave a personal account Sunday of his wife's multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis in a “Fox News Sunday” interview. The interview came the same day Romney received the endorsement of Iowa's largest newspaper, The Des Moines Register.
“Probably the toughest time of my life was standing there with Ann, as we hugged each other and the diagnosis came,” said Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts.
Ann Romney was diagnosed with MS in 1998. MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the spinal cord. Symptoms include numbness, loss of balance and blurred vision. There is no cure, according to Mayo Clinic.
After explaining the diagnosis, the doctor left the office to give the couple private time together. Romney then described hugging his wife and telling her, “as long as it's not something fatal, I'm just fine.”
“I'm happy in life as long as I've got my soul mate with me,” Romney added.
Romney said that Ann Romney, who also had breast cancer, has recovered most of her health, but at the time it was “really difficult” for her. She was unable to care for her family in the ways she had grown accustomed, such as cooking meals. Caring for her family, Romney said, “was what gave meaning to her day to day activities.”
“Look, I don't care what the meals are like,” Romney described telling Ann Romney at the time. “I like cold cereal and peanut butter sandwiches. We can do fine with that as long as we have each other.”
Romney has been married for 42 years. He said he met Ann Romney while they were still in high school. He drove her home from a dance and he “kissed her at the door,” and has “been following her ever since.”
Romney said it would have been much more difficult for him if he had learned that his wife's disease was fatal.
“You think about what makes a difference to you in your life. It's people. Life is all about the people you love. We can handle disease. Death, that's a different matter. I don't know that I can handle death. Disease and hardship we can handle as long as we have the people we love around us.”
Ann Romney has been more prominently featured in the Romney campaign recently. Some political observers believe it is an attempt to show how Romney distinguishes himself from frontrunner Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House. Gingrich has been married three times and was unfaithful to his second wife.
Romney received the endorsement Sunday of The Des Moines Register, Iowa's largest circulation newspaper, just a few weeks ahead of the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus. The Des Moines Register editors cited Romney's “sobriety, wisdom and judgment” as the reasons for the endorsement.
“While other candidates have pandered to extremes with attacks on the courts and sermons on Christian values, Romney has pointedly refrained from reckless rhetoric and moralizing,” the editors wrote in defense of Romney's “sobriety.”
The “attacks on the courts” could be a reference to Gingrich's position that judges should be subpoenaed to testify before Congress when they make decisions that members of Congress find extreme. The “sermons on Christian values” is likely a reference to Texas Governor Rick Perry's “Strong” ad, in which he touts his Christian faith and accuses President Obama of waging a “war on religion.”
In recent Iowa polls, Romney is either in a three-way tie or closely behind Newt Gingrich and Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
The editors described Gingrich as “an undisciplined partisan who would alienate, not unite,” and argued that Paul's “libertarian ideology would lead to economic chaos and isolationism.”