Ruth Williams: Is she Mitt Romney's 'Joe the Plumber'?

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As Mitt Romney campaigns through South Carolina leading up to Saturday’s primary, so does Ruth Williams. Williams, age 55, of Columbia, South Carolina made headlines over the weekend after she approached Romney on the rope line after an event.

According to reports, Williams tearfully told the GOP presidential candidate that she was out of work and desperate for money with a sick son at home.

Williams, a Republican, told ABC News that she had been following the candidate around for days. Williams said, “I was on the highway praying and said, ‘God just show me how to get [my] lights on,’ and I pulled up to a stop sign and his bus was there,” said Williams, who has been unemployed since last October. “And then God said, ‘Follow the bus,’ and I followed the bus to the airport.”

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After missing Romney a few times, she finally caught up with the candidate on Saturday as he worked the standard grip and grin rope line. Williams reached out to tell the candidate of her struggles with losing her job because of the dismal housing market. She had previously worked as a house cleaner for home builders.

Romney apparently moved by her pleas for help reached into his own pocket and pulled out $50 dollars. A Romney endorser South Carolina Treasurer Curtis Loftis reportedly also gave Williams $150 to pay her light bill. A campaign anecdote like this harkens back to encounters of elections past like that of then candidate Obama with Joe the Plumber who went on to become an overnight celebrity and debate topic in 2008.

It appeared as though Romney was going to try to use the incident with Williams to his advantage. This charitable act of kindness comes just as attacks on his work at Bain Capital and scrutiny over his tax returns and off shore tax havens have made headlines.

On the campaign trail Wednesday, Romney said, “I spoke with a woman the other day who with tears running down her face said, ‘Can you find me a job, I’m looking for a job…9.9 percent unemployment in South Carolina. It just breaks your heart to see what’s happening across the country.”

Initially, Romney’s campaign confirmed this was a reference to Ruth Williams but later in the day a spokesperson retracted that statement saying that Romney was speaking about someone else he had encountered.

Whether or not the encounter with Williams becomes a debate topic tonight before South Carolinians go to the polls Saturday remains to be seen. Pundits believe Romney needs to humanize himself to voters, but it is unclear whether this small gesture will do anything to help his image.

Once his tax returns are released as promised, the $50 he handed to Ruth Williams will likely seem like small potatoes.