A Tale of Three Wives: Life on the Campaign Trail

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While presidential candidates battle through debates, dueling press releases and stump speeches, their spouses work mostly behind the scenes -- avoiding missteps, providing counsel and riding the roller coaster of life on the campaign trail. 

CBN News talked to three of the candidates' wives:

• Callista Gingrich, a business owner and author whose husband, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, is topping the polls.

• Utah's former first lady and mother of seven, Mary Kaye Huntsman, whose husband, Gov. John Huntsman, is working hard to get noticed.

• Anita Perry, the current first lady of Texas, wife of Gov. Rick Perry.

A Praying Wife

Anita, who has watched her husband fall from the top of the GOP presidential pack, said she prays for God to grant him wisdom and patience.

"I pray for him to have strength and wisdom and for the right words to come out of his mouth and to be patient because we're not on his timetable, we're on God's timetable."

Rick Perry has struggled through several primary debates. CBN News asked Anita what it was like for her at the debate hosted by CNBC when her husband couldn't think of the third agency he would eliminate if elected president.

"It's very, very painful," she recalled. "I'll be honest with you, I couldn't think of the right word either. I'm sitting there going. 'What is that word?' I froze in time just like him. You know, it was a very human moment." 

"I think people really saw a human side of him just like you and I are talking right now," she told CBN News.

"The right word might not come out of our mouths," she said. "But if I could have remembered that word, I would have gone and put it in his mouth at that time."

Unlikely Allies

During such challenging times, candidates' spouses often gain strength and encouragement from a place many voters might not expect: each other.

Callista Gingrich shared a connection with Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's husband, Marcus. The two grew up in Wisconsin towns just 10 miles apart.

"Now on the campaign trail we're often seated next to each other at the debates, and we visit, and we enjoy some Midwestern camaraderie," she told CBN News.

Anita Perry and Mary Kaye Huntsman got to know each other through their husbands' service as governors of Texas and Utah.

Now, on the presidential campaign trail, their friendships have grown.

**For more about how Mary Kaye Huntsman and Anita Perry have bonded on the campaign trail visit Beltway Buzz.**

"I think there are people that you're immediately drawn to," Anita said of her friendship with Mary Kaye.

"We both love our husbands, we're huge supporters of them, we have children who are involved," she added.

"And she's (Mary Kaye) a wonderful, strong principled woman who believes in her husband and believes in her country. So do I," she said.

"We don't talk about policy," Mary Kaye revealed. "I never know what Rick us up to, and she doesn't know what Jon is up to -- and we keep it that way."

"It's more about how we're feeling inside and what we need that day," she explained.

The women belong to a sorority of sorts, sharing an experience that few can relate.

All three women said the race has strengthened their faith.

"I think you turn to it every day, everything that happens makes you feel like you need that in your life, that spiritual inner strength," Huntsman said.

Supportive Spouses

They also think it's important for Americans to see them on the campaign trail with their husbands, a belief that's been confirmed to Anita.

"Just the other day I had an email from a 79-year-old woman in Iowa," she explained. "And she said, 'One thing I really like is when I see you and your husband together. You truly love each other, and you support each other.'"

Mary Kaye has followed her husband around the world through his career in public service.

She said it's frustrating to watch perceptions about his record become reality. Some Republicans have labeled Jon Huntsman as moderate, even liberal.

"These people don't know him," Mary Kaye said. "If you look on stage at all the candidates, he has always been conservative in his record. He's always been pro-life, he's always been pro-Second Amendment, he has been pro-growth."

"He's taken a very conservative state, Utah, to number one in job creation, number one in best-managed state in the country when he was governor," she said.

Newt Gingrich said it's Callista's calm, solid confidence that helped him get through the worst summer of his political career, when many pundits suggested he get out of the race.

"I believe Newt has been preparing to do this his entire life," Callista told CBN News. "He has a proven record of national leadership and a thorough understanding of American history and a genuine love of America."

"And I believe that he is the person best prepared to lead this country," she declared.

Business Woman, Author

When she's not making the case for her husband, Callista runs the family business. 

She's also busy promoting her new patriotic children's book, Sweet Land of Liberty, and is often seen around the country with the book's main character Ellis the Elephant.

She said she considered many animals to play the lead role, but jokes a donkey was never one of them.

"I love this country," she told CBN News. "I grew up in a very patriotic small town in the Midwest that didn't apologize for being American.

"And I would like to, going forward, see our young people feel proud to be an American, to appreciate the courage and the sacrifice that have gone before us and to live that kind of life, to not be apologetic, to know that this country is special and to understand why," she concluded.

All three woman have considered how they'd play the influential role of the first lady of the United States.

But for now, they're focusing on the daily grind of the campaign, looking for ways to support their husbands and taking comfort in time.

"You know, 60 to 70 percent of the voters in America haven't made their minds up," Anita noted. "We're very early in this process."

--Published Dec. 6, 2011.

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CBN News
Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.