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Ann Romney on Jay Leno: How did she do?

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Some commentators thought that showed the stress of the campaign might be reaching her. And Romney herself, coming out of that interview, thought she might have been “a little strong.” That’s the phrase she used when describing her recollection to Mr. Leno Tuesday night.

“But everyone I’ve seen is giving me high fives about it,” she said.

Mrs. Mitt on “Tonight” did not come off with the polish of a seasoned pol. But she didn’t have to. Instead, she showed why a candidate’s spouse today may be their most important surrogate campaigner – as does the first lady during her own TV turns.

First, the spouse gets to repeat key talking points without having to provide detailed backup info. Asked by Leno about her husband’s comments at a fundraiser that 47 percent of Americans believe they’re “victims” and are mired in government dependency, Romney said, “You don’t like those things to get misinterpreted.... We care about the 100 percent.... Two things about Mitt: He cares, and he’s competent.”

We mean no disrespect by pointing out the high likelihood that Romney staffers asked Romney to repeat the words “cares” and “competent” as many times as possible. And on a late night show, it’s unlikely you’ll get asked to unpack those assertions and say more specifically what they mean.

Romney also got in a good plug aimed at the women’s vote. When insisting that she’s behind her husband’s run 100 percent – despite having made a video in 2008 in which she looked into a camera and told Mitt she’d “never do this again” – she said that her husband had the skill to help people hurt by today’s bad economy.

“Especially women. More women are slipping into poverty,” she said.

But the real virtue of spouses on the stump is their ability to humanize the candidate, of course, and it’s here that Romney does best. On “Tonight” she referred to the time Mitt helped a dying boy organize his affairs. She talked about his “playaholic” ways with their five boys when they were young. She talked about how they met, and managed to say he wasn’t a good dancer without really saying it.

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