07/25/2007 at 03:00 PM EDT
Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, finds strength in her family and her horses – and she's emerging as a potent political force this campaign season.
"Ann deserves a lot of credit," says GOP pollster Neil Newhouse. "Politicians talk about family values, Ann and Mitt Romney live them."
Her husband calls her "one of America's great moms" – a description she's "totally satisfied with."
Mrs. Romney, 58, invited PEOPLE into the sunshine-yellow sitting room of her Belmont, Mass., home on June 12 to talk about her Mormon faith, raising five boys, living with Multiple Sclerosis – and her designs on the White House.
Here is the complete interview:
What do you most want people to know about you?
The thing people are most curious about is that I have MS and then the fact that I've overcome it. When you're used to being healthy and strong and vibrant and everything and then – bang – overnight you're desperately ill, it's frightening. People liken it to the same stages you go through grieving a death, where it takes a long time to accept it. Now that I've had it a number of years, I spend a lot of time on the phone privately talking to people who have just been recently diagnosed. That's my way of helping others. I always recommend going to a good doctor, doing the right medicines and then combining that with holistic [treatments.]