Steinbrück, who is challenging Angela Merkel for Germany's top political job in this year's election, was being interviewed by a German television presenter along with his wife Gertrud in front of two dozen top Social Democrats on Sunday.
The biology teacher talked about life in the Steinbrück household –describing the birdhouses he built as sturdy enough to withstand a nuclear attack, and how he was generally unimpressed by women who do not return to work after having children.
Gertrud Steinbrück even admitted that she didn't say a word about his plan to run for Chancellor until he had been nominated by his party to do so.
She also told the audience how an uncomfortable visit to the home by a journalist and photographer team 20 years ago – when she and the children had been forced to walk up and down the stairs again and again until the perfect image had been created, had prompted her to ban all such 'home stories'.
This in itself seemed to win back Steinbrück some support from his party colleagues, who have not only been unimpressed by his performance so far in the election campaign, but also distracted by rumours of disagreements between him and party chairman Sigmar Gabriel, the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper said on Monday.
When asked about the media “shit-storm” which seemed to hit her husband as soon as he had declared his candidacy, she said she “found it hard to bear,” and couldn't understand why anyone would put themselves such a position. Böttinger then asked Steinbrück what he thought.
But he was unable to find words, instead staring at the floor and struggling with what were widely accepted to be tears, prompting his wife to reach out and put her hand on his arm. This tender gesture brought the crowd to its feet.
The talk appears to have smoothed over tensions between the two leading Social Democrats, and won Steinbrück the affections of the party, Süddeutsche Zeitung said.