A Democratic strategist has apologized a day after saying that Ann Romney, wife of presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, has never worked outside the home. The ensuing war of words sparked a raging debate on blogs, news and social media sites and drew criticism from President Barack Obama and his campaign advisers.
"Guess what, his wife has actually never worked a day in her life," Hilary Rosen said on CNN Wednesday night. "She's never dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of women in this country are facing."
"I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended," Rosen said in a statement. "Let's declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance." The apology came Thursday afternoon, after Rosen had spent the day explaining that she was referring to the fact that the Romneys' wealth shielded them from many of the financial worries that other American women have.
Ann Romney launched a Twitter account to post: "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work." Later, on FOX news, she said, "My career choice was to be a mother. Other women make other choices. We have to respect women in all the choices they make."
She said that her husband considered her job, raising their five sons, more important than his work and told FOX, "He would say, `My job is temporary. ... Your job is a forever job that's going to bring forever happiness.' Mitt respects women that make those different choices."
Tweeted her son, Josh Romney, "Ann D Romney is one of the smartest, hardest-working women I know. Could have done anything with her life, chose to raise me."
Obama's re-election experts quickly chimed in as well, distancing the president and the party from Rosen's comments. Obama campaign manager Jim Messina called Rosen's words "wrong, and family should be off limits. She should apologize." Former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod characterized her remarks as "inappropriate and offensive."
Rosen used Twitter to try to explain her remark: "When I said Ann Romney never worked, I meant she never had to care for her kids AND earn a paycheck like MOST American women!" And, "I've nothing against Ann Romney. I just don't want Mitt using her as an expert on women struggling to support their family. She isn't."
How the remark by Rosen and the counterpoints by Romney and others are received could be important to the election. Democrats have previously accused Republicans of running a war on women. Romney countered, "The real war on women is being waged by the president's failed economic policies."
Wrote Laurie Kellman of the Associated Press, "The series of exchanges brought the Mommy Wars to the presidential campaign trail as both parties court women voters critical to their prospects in the November election. President Barack Obama's high command demanded that Rosen apologize, while the Democratic National Committee disavowed her comments and her, reflecting the acute sensitivity of both parties about alienating any sub group of female voters."
Bloomberg said that "Ann Romney has played an active role in her husband's campaign and Rosen's comments elevated her profile at a time when the candidate is attempting to appeal to women.
"Women account for a majority of voters in election years. Women also held a majority of non-farm payroll jobs in January 2010 — for the first time since the U.S. Department of Labor started collecting data in 1964. The 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics Databook on Women in the Labor Force reported that 71.3 percent of mothers with children were working."
The origin of the "war on women" as it has been used in this election cycle is also a bit controversial, with various viewpoints on who used it first and how. Contrasting views of what's behind it are offered by The Atlantic and by RedState.com. The latter's Erick Erickson tracks some of the conversations back on a blog, with quotes showing its use by various Democrats.
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