RUNNING MATES: The Image and Reality of the First Lady Role by Ann Grimes

RUNNING MATES: The Image and Reality of the First Lady Role

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A perceptive account of how the wives of Presidential candidates are negotiating the transition from appendages to full-fledged political partners; by a journalist (Chicago Magazine, etc.) who won both an Emmy and a New York Film Festival gold medal for her documentary, Return to South Shore. The activism of former First Ladies Rosalynn Carter and Nancy Reagan, in addition to the Gary Hart affair, focused unprecedented media attention on the families of the 13 Presidential aspirants during the 1988 race, particularly the wives. Elizabeth Dole, Tipper Gore, Jackie Jackson, and Lee Hart, among others, endured questions on either the adultery issue or on ""choices between campaign, career, and family."" Yet, Grimes notes, voters ""weren't exactly sure what traits they wanted to see in a first lady hopeful. Or just what image it was that a candidate's wife was expected to project."" The two wives who survived the grueling primaries embodied the electorate's ambivalence: Barbara Bush, whose grandmotherly image had initially dismayed GOP aides; and Kitty Dukakis, a rebel against taboos binding political wives, whose struggles with substance abuse and depression were exacerbated by the campaign. Grimes offers no blockbuster revelations, but some interesting surprises (e.g., Mrs. Bush exerts considerable influence over her husband, despite protestations to the contrary). Though much of Grimes' chronicle is heavier on shoe-leather reporting than on analysis, her final chapter succinctly pinpoints the impact of the candidates' wives, concluding that most likely ""the public will see more issue-talking professional surrogates on the trail and a growing recognition of these women as the political partners that many are and always have been."" In all, a sharp anatomy of the ambitious new breed of would-be First Ladies, and of the public's uneasiness about their roles.

Pub Date: July 16th, 1990
Publisher: Morrow