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April 12, 2012, 7:37 am

Obama and Romney Campaigns Battle Over Working Mother Comments

12:48 p.m. | Updated Ann Romney responded on Thursday to a Democratic strategist who said she had “never worked a day in her life,” saying that “my career choice was to be a mother” and adding that people need to “respect choices that women make.”

Pushing back against the comment from Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist, Ms. Romney added: “She should have come to my house when those five boys were causing so much trouble. It wasn’t so easy.”
The remarks from Mitt Romney’s wife on Fox News Thursday morning escalated a political back-and-forth that has quickly morphed into a broader, cultural conversation about the role of women in the workplace.
Ms. Rosen’s initial comments on CNN Wednesday night questioned Mrs. Romney’s ability to relate to financial struggles of women who have little choice but to work full-time while they raise children. Ms. Rosen continued to press that case on Twitter, in an online column and in television appearances in the following hours.

“This is not about Ann Romney,” Ms. Rosen said on CNN. “This is about the waitress at a diner some place 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.”

She added: “This isnt 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, lets face it, don’t have that choice.”

In response, Ms. Romney insisted that “I know what it’s like to struggle. Maybe I haven’t struggled as much financially as some people have. I can tell you and promise you that I’ve had struggles in my life.” 

Ms. Rosen is a managing director at the political consulting firm SKDKnickerbocker, one of whose founders, Anita Dunn, was a senior adviser to Mr. Obama and, this year, to the Democratic National Committee.

Officials at the Democratic Party said that its current contract with the firm is primarily with Ms. Dunn, and that Ms. Rosen has no formal role on the account. They acknowledged that she has attended some meetings, including with the Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, but only in an informal basis.

They also acknowledge that Ms. Rosen, a prominent Democrat in Washington who regularly appears at social functions attended by strategists of both parties, had been a visitor to the White House on various occasions. But they said those visits were for either policy announcements and social events attended by large audiences or occasional, smaller sessions the White House holds with party allies who are frequently on point-counterpoint television round tables with Republicans.

Ms. Rosen is a political analyst with CNN, and cannot act as a paid consultant to a political party or presidential campaign as such.

The public debate between Ms. Rosen and Mrs. Romney echoes beyond the campaign trail, where women regularly struggle with questions of how to balance work outside the home, their family responsibilities and the emotional responses thataccompanies any choice they make.
First Lady Michele Obama weighed in Thursday morning on Twitter, writing that “every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected.”
But the conversation is playing out in the context of the upcoming general election campaign between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama, where both campaigns see their political fortunes intertwined with the conclusions reached by independent women in swing states across the country.
Campaign strategists for Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama appeared to view the public debate as a moment with potentially serious impact on the battle for the White House. A spokeswoman for Mr. Romney lashed out at Ms. Rosen on Thursday.
“Not only was this Obama confidant wrong to attack a mother who chooses to stay home, so many women have lost their jobs under the Obama economy, they don’t even have that choice,” said Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Mr. Romney.
President Obama’s top political advisers moved rapidly late Wednesday night to distance the president from Ms. Rosen.
Jim Messina, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, tweeted:
David Axelrod, another top strategist, said in a Twitter message that he was “also disappointed in Hilary Rosen’s comments about Ann Romney. They were inappropriate and offensive.”
Just as quickly, Mitt Romney’s campaign signed Mrs. Romney up on Twitter, where she offered her first tweet:
The comment by Hilary Rosen on CNN came at the end of a day in which Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney had engaged in an intense volley of charges about which man’s policies would be better for women in America. Mr. Romney is trailing badly among women in public opinion surveys.
On Wednesday, Mr. Romney’s advisers gave Democrats an opening after fumbling a reporter’s question on whether Mr. Romney supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Democrats pounced, forcing the Republican campaign to insist that Mr. Romney supports equal pay.
But Ms. Rosen’s comments threatened to undermine any progress Mr. Obama’s campaign had made on Wednesday.
The comments lit up Twitter, where users began intensely debating Ms. Rosen’s remarks, with many accusing her of failing to respect the work that women do at the home. But as midnight approached, Ms. Rosen was not backing down.
In response to Mrs. Romney’s first tweet, Ms. Rosen wrote:
And then she added:
And then, in a commentary on The Huffington Post, Ms. Rosen wrote a long defense of her comments, accusing critics of “faux anger” aimed at scoring political points.
“I don’t need lectures from the R.N.C. on supporting women and fighting to increase opportunities for women; I’ve been doing it my whole career,” Ms. Rosen wrote. “If they want to attack me and distract the public’s attention away from their nominee’s woeful record, it just demonstrates how much they just don’t get it.”
She added: “I have no judgements about women who work outside the home vs. women who work in the home raising a family. I admire women who can stay home and raise their kids full time. I even envy them sometimes. It is a wonderful luxury to have the choice. But let’s stipulate that it is NOT a choice that most women have in America today.”
Jim Rutenberg contributed reporting.

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