Democrats have engaged in a full-court press in pushing back on strategist Hilary Rosen’s comment on CNN Wednesday night that as a wealthy stay-at-home-mom Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life.”
Rosen apologized to Romney Thursday, but only after kicking up a firestorm over stay-at-home motherhood and drawing a rebuke from the president himself.
“There is no tougher job than being a mom,” President Obama told a Cedar Rapids television station, mentioning his own wife and mother. He added, “I don’t have a lot of patience for commentary about the spouses of political candidates. My general view is those of us who are in the public life, we’re fair game. Our families are civilians.”
He was only the latest member of his own team to pile on.
“I could not disagree with Hilary Rosen any more strongly. Her comments were wrong and family should be off limits. She should apologize,” campaign manager Jim Messina said in a tweet.
Top strategist David Axelrod chimed in: “Also Disappointed in Hilary Rosen’s comments about Ann Romney. They were inappropriate and offensive.”
Michelle Obama added, saying “every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected.”
“As a mom I know that raising children is the hardest job there is. As a pundit, I know my words on CNN last night were poorly chosen,” Rosen said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended. Let’s declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance.”
On Fox News Channel this morning, the wife of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said that staying at home and working are equally valid choices.
“We have to respect women in all the choices they make,” she said. Raising children, it’s for me the most important thing we can do ... Mitt said to me more times then you can imagine, Ann, your job is more important than mine.”
And Romney’s husband chimed in too, saying “Her work raising our boys was tougher than any job I had.”
In case her words seemed a bit retrograde, Romney added: “Let me give a shoutout to all the dads who are at home raising kids.”
Mitt Romney has repeatedly said that he goes to his wife for insight into women’s concerns.
On CNN Thursday night, Rosen questioned what advice Ann Romney could give. “His wife has actually never worked a day in her life,” she told Anderson Cooper. “She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing.”
On Thursday she clarified her own remarks in another appearance, saying she her point was about economics, not cultural choices.
“Most women in America, let's face it, don't have that choice,” she said. “They have to be working moms and home moms and that's the piece that I am not hearing from the Romney camp.”
Romney told Fox News that she has struggled, reminding viewers that she has survived both breast cancer and multiple scelerosis.
“I know what its like to struggle,” she said. “Maybe I haven’t struggled as much financially as other people have. I can tell you and promise you that I have had some struggles in my life.”
She also defended her husband’s record on women, noting that his chief of staff and lieutenant governor in Massachusetts were women. “He has so many women in his circle,” Romney said. “He listens to a lot of women.”
But at every opportunity, Romney too turned the discussion away from her personal life and to the economy.
“I’ve been on the campaign trail for one year and guess what women are talking about,” she said. “They’re talking about jobs, and they’re talking about the legacy of debt that we’re leaving their children.”
Asked why her husband was lagging so far behind President Obama with female voters, Romney said it was just too early in the race to draw any conculsions.
“People haven’t had a chance to listen to us and hear us,” she said.
Having Ann Romney front-and-center, if only for a day, can only help the candidate as he tries to close the gender gap. As Romney said herself: “I’m grateful for this opportunity to let women know that this is a very important election, this is a watershed election and it’s important to get someone in there who understands the economy.”