Wives Who Said No

Mitch Daniels is just the latest would-be 2012 presidential candidate to bow out citing family matters. Michelle Cottle on the rise of the political spouse.

Charles A. Smith / AP Photo

Charles A. Smith / AP Photo

Marsha Barbour

After making hires and visiting key primary states, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour surprised supporters on Monday by saying he’s decided against running for president., saying that he couldn’t promise to have an “absolute fire in his belly over the long haul.” There’s no doubt that Barbour’s wife never approved of her husband’s run. “It horrifies me,” she said of a presidential campaign and the “huge sacrifice” it would mean for her family. “It’s been a lot to be First Lady of the state of Mississippi and this would be 50 times bigger,” she said in a recent TV interview. “You would commit to 10 years, which would be two years of campaigning, then you run to win, so it would be four years. Then you would want to run again—so it’s 10 years, and it’s the last part of our productive lives.”

Jason Reed, Reuters / Landov

Kimberly Thune

South Dakota Sen. John Thune was contemplating challenging Obama until his wife Kimberley got her hands on Game Change, the tell-all book about the 2008 campaign. “It was not helpful,” Thune joked, calling the book “a downer”. He then added positively, “But… she’s somebody who really believes in public service, and she’s been a real trooper in all the campaigns. So however this ends up for us, she will be ready to go to work.” Less than three weeks later, he took himself out of the running.

Jason Reed, Reuters / Landov

Alma Powell

Before he became secretary of state in George W. Bush’s administration, Colin Powell had thought about running for president himself. But his wife Alma Powell never supported his dream, pushing him to take himself out of the running in November, 1995. She told The Ladies Journal in 1996 that her husband received hate mail after announcing his candidacy. “A black man running for president is going to be in a dangerous position,” she said, adding, “I did not want him to run. I told him that from the very beginning.” She was allegedly none too pleased when he joined the Republican Party either. “I hope that in the days and weeks ahead I’ll be able to persuade her that I made the right choice today,” the retired general said.

Tom Strickland / AP Photo

Cheri Daniels

Mrs. Daniels has been hesitant from the beginning. In February, Daniels said it “would be safe to say” Cheri Daniels is uncomfortable with the campaign. Part of her reluctance could stem from a desire to avoid public scrutiny of her marriage. In 1994, Cheri Daniels left her husband and daughters for another man, but after her second marriage dissolved, Cheri and Mitch Daniels remarried in 1997. She has publicly refused to discuss the incident, though in 2004, she commented, “If you like happy endings, you’ll love our story.”

Marcy Nighswander / AP Photo

Marianne Gingrich

Newt Gingrich was all the rage in 1995. He led a Republican Revolution in the House of Representatives, ending the Democrat’s 40-year reign, and served as the Speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999. In 1995, Time magazine selected Gingrich as their ‘Person of the Year’ for the GOP takeover of the House. However, in the September 1995 issue of Vanity Fair, his wife, Marianne Ginther Gingrich, shot down the Person of the Year’s presidential aspirations. “I don't want him to be president," the Speaker's wife told the magazine. And, she added, stopping him was well within her power: "It's easy ... I just go on the air the next day and I undermine everything."

Jim R. Bounds / AP Photo

Rielle Hunter

Though his wife Elizabeth’s breast cancer had returned, John Edwards announced in March 2007 that he was going to stay in the 2008 presidential race. Elizabeth allegedly encouraged his decision, at least that’s what his mistress Rielle Hunter claimed in an interview with GQ. Rielle herself “really viewed it as reckless.” She added: “And what’s interesting is that she wanted to stay in. That’s the key. He wanted to get out, and she wanted to stay in.” Hunter told GQ that “based upon my intuition” and “my small knowledge of Astrology,” she encouraged Edwards to wait at least a month until after the news of his wife’s cancer returning before getting back into the race. But the truth of the matter was she never saw him as a politician at all. “I believe he’s more aligned with being a humanitarian,” Hunter mused.