“I think when they refer to Mitt, suggesting there was something illegal or untoward about how they managed their financial affairs, they’re talking about Ann by extension, because she signed those tax returns.” the adviser said. The insinuation of Ann Romney’s culpability, he argued, is one reason the campaign believes that Romney partisans are not the only ones who will see Obama’s attacks as underhanded. “It’s not just right-wing Republicans — I’m talking about business leaders, officials in the [George] H.W. [Bush] administration, who are frankly shocked by what [Obama’s campaign] is saying.”

The adviser added, “Nobody’s perfect, but there’s a level of decency that shines through with Gov. Romney and Ann and the family that no one can deny.” …

It’s easy to see why Republicans would want to invoke Mrs. Romney as her husband gets pounded. She is often viewed as the campaign’s strongest asset — a sympathetic mother figure, cancer survivor, and graceful stumper whose authenticity contrasts to her stiffer husband.