By Betsy Rothstein - 02/05/08 05:32 PM EST
Carol Paul loves to giggle. In fact, the “heh heh heh heh heh” sounds punctuate most of her sentences. But the laughter does not signal all is well in the world of the wife of presidential hopeful Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).
Carol describes a morning last August, during an 11-day trip to Iowa, in which she and her husband had awoken early.
“Ron was on the computer,” she recalls. “I had a cup of coffee. I got dizzy. I kept thinking that this has got to go away, I’ve got things to do.”
Her husband also had things to do, such as delivering a speech at the Iowa Straw Poll.
Finally she told her husband, a trained ob-gyn, that something was wrong. “He reached down, took my pulse. He knew right away. He called an ambulance.”
Carol Paul had suffered an electrical block to her heart and ultimately needed a pacemaker installed. Her husband remained alongside her as long as she would let him. She eventually sent him away to give his speech.
“I said, ‘Go! Give your speech.’ People were annoyed — why wasn’t he there? He doesn’t like to be late for anything,” she said.
She was in good hands. “The physician was wonderful!” she gushed. “The hospital was wonderful!”
Then, she says, laughing, “The day before, we were in the cornfields. That would have been a real problem.”
Paul, a petite figure at 5-foot-3 and with a curly, teased puff of blond-white hair, looks as though she has tried to dress for the halls of Congress but can’t quite leave Texas behind. During a recent sit-down interview in the lobby of her husband’s Cannon office, she wore a fur-lined navy blazer, a bright pink knit shirt, navy trousers and sandals with stockings. She bedecked herself with a strand of pearls and matching pearl earrings.
She usually spends a week on the trail with her husband and then a week at home in Lake Jackson, Texas. “I handle the mail so they don’t turn off our lights,” she says, letting out her signature laughter.
Paul clearly prefers to exist in the shadow of her husband, speaking with more animation about him than herself. She rarely gives interviews and admits that although she loves her husband dearly, she is likely not his biggest fan on the trail. She says a woman in New Orleans recently asked her: “How do you feel that your husband is a rock star?’”
Carol Paul also knows how to talk him up.
“There is no fanfare with Ron,” she says, getting warmed up. “He says what he believes. He has no speechwriter. He gives it all from the heart.”
Paul recalls when her husband first ran for Congress two decades ago. “He came in one day and said, ‘I think I’m going to run for Congress.’ I said, ‘What? It could be dangerous, you could get elected.’ He said, ‘I’m not going to get elected. You can’t run against Santa Claus. I can’t offer them things. I’m offering them freedom.’ ” Sounding distinctly anti-Hillary (and she is the sort of woman who bakes cookies, knits and stands by her man) she doesn’t mind her husband being in charge. “When I said yes [to marrying Ron Paul] I knew he would always be the breadwinner and take care of his kids and family. I trusted in his instincts.”
To be sure, Paul has her hobbies. She ran a small dancing school, was a baton twirler in college and, with five children, 17 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, has 30 years’ experience supervising Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts. She was also a day camp director.
“To see a group of young girls putting up a flat at 7 a.m., I just felt it gave them patriotism,” she says proudly.
If there are any hints as to what might be her pet causes should she become first lady, one might look to her quilting, knitting and cross-stitching. This past summer, her granddaughter, Bonnie, took sewing lessons and invited her teacher to a quilt show at the White House.
“I am interested in the fact that our mothers and grandmothers are back in the workforce,” she says. “I am concerned that some of the handwork is not getting passed down.”
Paul says her mother never worked. “Most of her life was really spent doing for me, but I really wasn’t a spoiled brat,” she says, laughing.
The conversation turns to her 16th birthday party, to which she invited all the girls in her class. She also invited a date, Ron Paul. “I wasn’t nervous to ask him,” she says. “He was nervous about accepting. He wasn’t sure that he knew how to dance, and it was a dance.”
For her birthday, her grandfather gave her a fox fur jacket. What about Ron Paul’s dancing? “Yeah, he did OK,” she says.
Paul is pleased her husband is running for president and seems not to mind that it has them crisscrossing the country even to faraway places, such as last week’s jaunts to Washington state and Colorado.
“I encouraged him because I know how much he cares about our country,” she says. “I knew he was the only person who was going to stand up and tell the truth.”
Sometimes she tires on the trail, but recalls walking door to door with 30 members of her family in New Hampshire. “I never worry about giving my time,” she says. “I feel it’s worthwhile.”
At times she needs to fade into the background. “Sometimes the crowds get too big and I back off and let them have him,” she says. “I’ve always been the one that keeps the home fires burning.”
One aspect of the campaign that is not so funny to Carol Paul is the ridicule she says her husband receives.
“They like to make fun of his candidacy,” she says of the other candidates, pundits and members of the media. “This does cause annoyance to me,” she adds (cue up the C.P. laughter). “I think they are very disrespectful to a great patriot who loves his country and does so much for his country and asks nothing in return. You can pick it up. There’s a smirk here, very discourteous.”
There was also the time when another candidate’s supporter stopped her on the trail and said, “Oh, go smoke your marijuana!”
She didn’t take well to that. “I just thought it was so rude,” she says. She explains that her husband has said the war on drugs is not working but “has never smoked marijuana.”
Furthermore, she says, he never engages in name-calling and is a very forgiving person. “I may not be that good,” she says, smiling. “How could we want one of those men to be our president when they can be so discourteous?”
Among the many things she is proud of is the extraordinary spikes in fundraising her husband has had. On one day he raised $6 million online; on another the total was $4.3 million. “Some people have PAC [political action committee] money,” Paul boasts. “Ron does not.”
The booing can upset her, she says as she recalls the intense Florida debate. But she does not get too anxious about her husband during televised debates, even when the other hopefuls are lambasting him. “I don’t worry about any questions that they will ask him,” Paul says. “He doesn’t have prepared notes. He isn’t coached on how to stand.”