WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House – and President Barack Obama himself – rushed into a damage control campaign Thursday to blunt the impact of a Democratic consultant’s suggestion that Ann Romney isn’t qualified to discuss the economy because she “hasn’t worked a day in her life.”
“There’s no tougher job than being a mom,” Obama declared, standing up for Republican rival Mitt Romney’s wife with Democrats suddenly on the defensive over women’s issues for the first time this election year.
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Obama, in an interview with Cedar Rapids, Iowa, TV station KCRG, said, “When I think about what Michelle’s had to do, when I think about my own mom, a single mother raising me and my sister, that’s work. So, anybody who would argue otherwise probably needs to rethink their statement.”
The president’s remarks were his answer to consultant Hilary Rosen’s comments and the Twitter war they ignited. The mere fact that he weighed in on the uproar left no doubt that Democrats want to leave nothing to chance in their effort to keep female voters in the party fold. Women, who are the majority of voters in presidential election years, lean heavily Democratic, and polls show Obama holds a commanding lead among this group so far this year in battleground states.
Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, must win about 40 percent of female voters to have a chance at beating Obama, and he’s targeting married women and mothers who tend to be more conservative. Among this group, Ann Romney is popular and has been the candidate’s chief surrogate on how the struggling economy has affected women and families.
So his campaign pounced when Rosen said on CNN Wednesday that Ann Romney was no expert on the economy.
“His wife has actually never worked a day in her life,” Rosen said. “She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of women in this country are facing.”
Rosen apologized late Thursday, after first lady Michelle Obama tweeted her own support for women and mothers.
The backlash to Rosen’s comments was bipartisan, brutal and swift, crackling across Twitter, cable television and old-fashioned telephone lines. It appeared to have reignited the “Mommy Wars” debate, at least for now, over choices many women make as they juggle motherhood with the work most need to pay bills, college tuition and a semblance of financial security for their families.
Ann Romney fought back on Twitter and television, tweeting: “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.”
Later, on Fox News, she Romney noted that her career choice was being a mother, and while she hasn’t faced financial hardship she has confronted the ordeals of cancer and multiple sclerosis. Finally, she noted that her husband has said her work is more important than his as family breadwinner.
“He would say, `My job is temporary. … Your job is a forever job that’s going to bring forever happiness,” Ann Romney said. “Mitt respects women that make those different choices.”