The battle lines were drawn on Thursday in the first major fight of the 2012 general election campaign – whether Mitt Romney or Barack Obama cares more about women’s concerns.
And Romney’s wife, Ann was right in the forefront as she hit back strongly at a Democratic strategist’s claim that she has “never worked a day in her life.”
Hilary Rosen made the accusation during a CNN interview with Anderson Cooper in which she criticized the prominent role Ann Romney is playing advising her husband on women’s issues during his campaign for the White House.
But mother-of-five Romney showed she is a force to be reckoned with in a Fox News interview on Thursday. “She should have come to my house when those five boys were causing so much trouble,” she told Martha MacCallum. “It wasn’t so easy.”
Josh Romney, the Romney’s third son also chimed in with a Twitter message supporting his mother, calling her, “one of the smartest, hardest working women I know,” adding, “Could have done anything with her life, chose to raise me.”
Ann Romney admitted to MacCallum that she had not struggled financially like other women, however she pointed out that she has had her own battles with both breast cancer and multiple sclerosis. “I know what it’s like to struggle,” she said. “I can tell you, I have struggled in my life.”
And she was quick to defend her husband, who is now all but certain to win the Republican nomination for the presidency, against accusations that he does not see women as equals.
“You should see how many women he listens to,” she said. “That’s what I love about Mitt.
“He has so many women in his circle: his chief of staff when he was governor; in business, so many women surround him that he respects and admires; his lieutenant governor when he was governor – Kerry Healey – he respects enormously, he respects her intellect.
“That is a complete misperception.”
She said her husband at various times in his career with Bain Capital, the Salt Lake City Olympics and as governor of Massachusetts, had told her “Ann, your job is more important than mine.”
“He would say, ‘My job is temporary. I know that these things come and go, but your job is a forever job that’s going to bring forever happiness.’ He had perspective on this and, by the way, Mitt respects women that make those different choices.”
She said that as she has traveled the country with her husband on the campaign trail, women are mainly interested in two issues, jobs and the “legacy of debt we’re leaving our children.”
“I don’t care if they are stay-at-home moms or they’re working mothers or they’re grandmothers,” she said. “That’s what I’m hearing.”
Rosen, who advises the Democratic National Committee but is not involved in Obama’s reelection effort, came under fire from Democrats as well as Republicans, as they went into full damage-control mode. Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina tweeted, “I could not disagree with Hilary Rosen any more strongly. Her comments were wrong and family should be off limits. She should apologize.”
The campaign’s communications director, David Axelrod added, again on Twitter, “Also Disappointed in Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney. They were inappropriate and offensive.”
But Rosen, who lives with her partner, Elizabeth Birch and their twins, doubled down on Thursday morning, telling CNN, “This is not about Ann Romney, this is about the waitress at a diner someplace in Nevada who has two kids, whose daycare funding is being cut off because of the Romney/Ryan budget and she doesn’t know what to do.
“This isn’t about whether Ann Romney or I or other women of some means can afford to make a choice to stay home and raise kids. Most women in America, let’s face it, don’t have that choice.”
Republicans and Democrats have been bickering for days about which side is actually waging a war on women in the run up to the election. Mitt Romney claimed on Wednesday that 92 percent of all jobs lost during Obama’s three years as president have been women, while the left has tried to paint the GOP’s opposition to Obama’s healthcare reforms and to his insistence that insurance companies pay for contraception as going against the interests of females.
Romney backers accept that he has work to do to win back women voters to the Republican cause, as recent polls show they support Obama by a double-digit margin.
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