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Beyond policy positions and past record, there is one acutely personal aspect of any presidential candidate that America wants to understand: the spouse. “Increasingly, people want to know their candidates,” says Stephen Hess, an expert on media and politics who worked in the White House under Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon. “It got started before reality TV got started, but it’s of the same principle.”
Politicians’ spouses are often features of the campaign, a way for the nation to understand who the candidate is by looking at the person who is closest to them. But the spotlight also brings risk, according to Hess. “Sometimes, of course, they can become an issue themselves, so that can be a tricky business,” he says.
Here’s a rundown of the GOP spouses on the 2012 campaign trail so far: