With Romney’s campaign now arguing that Dems are the ones who are hurting women, thanks to Obama’s bad economic policies, Democrats pounced today on the news that Romney advisers were unable to say on a conference call with reporters whether he supports the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
According to audio of the call circluated by Dems, a Romney adviser, after being questioned about the law, said: “We’ll get back to you on that.”
Subsequently, Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul clarified: “He supports pay equity and is not looking to change current law.”
The question now is whether a President Romney would veto or refuse to sign any effort by a GOP-controlled Congress to repeal the Lily Ledbetter Act. I’ve asked for further clarification and will update if I hear back.
A few points on this. First, this isn’t the first time the broader issue has come up. As you’ll recall, neither CBS News nor the Hill were able to get the Romney campaign to say whether he supports Scott Walker’s repeal of Wisconsin’s equal pay law. And as Sam Stein notes today, if the Romney campaign is going to attack Obama for failing women economically, it should have had a ready answer at hand about Lily Ledbetter, given that this is one of Obama’s oft-trumpted achievements.
Second, this dust-up offers a signal that conservatives suspicious of Romney will be policing his pivot to general election mode very closely. After the news broke that Romney isn’t looking to change the law, right-leaning writer Philip Klein immediately tweeted: “Wow, Romney spox says he won’t get rid of Lilly Ledbetter act. Terrible legislation.” Expect more of this.
Third, the larger context is key. The Romney campaign has rolled out Ann Romney to argue in multiple forums that the battle over contraception and cultural issues won’t hurt Mitt, because women mostly care about jobs and kitchen table concerns. But this gender issue is an economic issue, too.
Romney’s seeming support of the law notwithstanding, Dems will work hard to remind voters that all but five Republican Senators voted against Lily Ledbetter. Romney seems to recognize that this is an area where he absolutely must achieve separation from the Congressional GOP, even if it risks angering conservatives. But this dust-up shows that where warranted, Dems will continue using the GOP’s overall damaged brand among women to complicate Romney’s effort to reintroduce himself to this key swing constituency.
Update: Five GOP Senators, not just the Maine twins, voted for Lily Ledbetter. I’ve edited the above to correct. Apologies for the error.