‘Mommy Wars’ Erupt in Campaigns’ Fight for Women Voters

BY Christina Bellantoni and Ryan C. Brooks  April 13, 2012 at 9:24 AM EDT

Ann Romney; photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Ann Romney was criticized by a Democratic consultant on Wednesday. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Remember when the “lipstick on a pig” comment completely changed the direction of the presidential race? Yeah, didn’t think so.

An inartful and offensive comment from a Democratic consultant won’t shift this election, either. And while campaigns attempt to capitalize on Hilary Rosen’s dig at Ann Romney, most of America likely isn’t caring that much about what a television pundit thinks of the woman who could become first lady.

But the last 36 hours of drummed-up controversy, dubbed the “Mommy Wars” by the media, do serve as an important reminder of where this contest will be focused for the next six-and-a-half months.

Mitt Romney and President Obama each know that female voters can shift the electorate, and each man’s campaign will surely inundate women with messages about why he is the better steward of the economy.

So just to catch you up if you haven’t been flipping around cable television lately, here’s what Rosen said on CNN, where she serves as a paid analyst. She was arguing that Mrs. Romney should not be her husband’s surrogate on economic issues and women.

“His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of women in this country are facing.”

And here’s what the candidate’s wife tweeted in response:

I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.

First lady Michelle Obama stepped in, tweeting Thursday:

Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected.

Many columns were written, including this one from Ruth Marcus and this one from Byron York.

The president weighed in, telling an Ohio television station, “It was the wrong thing to say.”

Other Democrats disavowed the remarks, and Rosen apologized. That’s pretty much it.

Of course, had it been the president or his top strategist David Axelrod making such a comment, it would be a much bigger deal.

David Weigel summed it up nicely in Slate under the headline “Romney Camp Will Keep Calling Hilary Rosen an Obama Adviser Because Shut Up That’s Why.”

The dust on this will settle, but it probably won’t be the last time you hear the phrase “mommy wars” this campaign season.

BIDEN COINS ‘ROMNEY RULE’

While in New Hampshire on Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden insisted Romney’s policies would do further damage to the economy. In a spin on the administration’s push for a “Buffett Rule” taxing the wealthiest Americans, Biden called the Republican’s plan the “Romney Rule.”

Biden suggested Romney was out of touch with middle-class America, and as he outlined the Democratic talking points on what further tax cuts for the rich could instead provide for middle-class Americans, a baby began to cry.

“I don’t blame her for crying,” he said. “She’s going to inherit it. She’s one smart baby.”

Team Romney kept after the president with a series of conference calls and releases reminding voters that Biden said during his 2008 campaign that Mr. Obama was not experienced enough to serve as commander in chief.

Both the president and vice president will release their 2011 tax returns Friday, yet another attempt to push Romney into making his past returns public. The campaign gave the scoop to the New York Times, which notes: “The Obama campaign will post the 2011 tax return for the Obamas, as well as those dating back to 2000, on the campaign’s Web site, an official said. It will also post tax returns for Mr. Biden and his wife, Jill.” The newspaper also reports, “Noting that Mitt Romney turned over tax returns for 23 years to the campaign of Senator John McCain when Mr. McCain was considering him as a vice-presidential running mate in 2008, Obama campaign advisers have argued that Mr. Romney should demonstrate the same openness with the public now.”

The candidate is likely to respond Friday when addressing the National Rifle Association in St. Louis.

THE NEWSHOUR SENATE SIX

On Thursday, Christina introduced the NewsHour Senate Six, races we’ll be tracking closely this year to get a sense of the national landscape and whether the GOP can win control of the chamber.

They are: Nevada, Montana, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Virginia and Massachusetts. We threw in Maine as a bonus.

Christina went race-by-race in a segment with Ray Suarez Thursday night. Watch that conversation here or below.

Gwen Ifill (@pbsgwen) spent this week in Indiana tracking Sen. Dick Lugar’s Republican primary challenge. Her piece will air Friday night on the NewsHour. She gives a little preview here.

The Republican group the American Action Network told Politico it will spend nearly $600,000 on television ads in Indianapolis alone defending Lugar and attacking his rival, state treasurer Richard Mourdock.

CALLING ALL PENNSYLVANIANS!

Are you a voter in the Keystone State?

The primary might be a done deal, but we’d love to hear from you. Please fill out the NewsHour’s quick survey on Public Insight Network.

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Politico’s Morning Score reported Friday that American Crossroads will put out a “brutal 60-second radio ad that features United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts complaining in a recent interview about Environmental Protection Agency regulations targeting coal.” Politico reported “the $175,000 buy will put the ad on the air in western Pennsylvania, southeastern/eastern Ohio and West Virginia (which bleeds into Ohio).”

  • The New York Times on the money race.

  • “Gay rights activists vowed Thursday to step up political pressure on the White House over President Obama’s refusal to sign a nondiscrimination executive order, with some decrying the decision as an attempt to avoid controversy before the November election,” the Washington Post reports.

  • Texas Rep. Ron Paul touted a poll from the right-leaning Rasmussen Reports that he “polls better against President Barack Obama in a head-to-head matchup than establishment-choice moderate Mitt Romney.”

  • Politico’s Ken Vogel and Ginger Gibson find that Newt Gingrich “has resorted to renting his presidential campaign’s most valuable asset — its donor list — for as much as $26,000-a-pop.”

  • Biden’s photographer David Lienemann gets a profile in Wired.

  • Chris Cillizza writes how the permanence of YouTube may hurt Romney’s etch-a-sketch strategy.

  • Rick Santorum says he dropped out because he ran out of money.

TOP TWEETS

#FOLLOW FRIDAY

Ryan (@ryancbrooks) has the NewsHour’s recommendations for top tweeters to add to your feed.

@ryanjreilly
The reporter-blogger for Talking Points Memo is reporting from Guantanamo Bay this week. When he’s back home in Washington, D.C., he often reports on the Department of Justice and any of the big cases it’s dealing with. Did you know there was a McDonald’s at Gitmo?

@ProducerMatthew
The deputy social media editor at @Reuters and what seems to be a living news feed. He’s like a wire you can talk to; especially good at tracking what’s buzzing on Twitter at the moment.

@W7VOA In a week when North Korea’s missiles have been the focus of the foreign policy and non-proliferation communities, Steve Herman has been keeping abreast of them and the earthquake near Thailand. He’s the bureau chief of Voice of America in South Korea and frequently appears on the networks to talk about breaking news after he breaks it himself.

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • Newark Mayor Cory Booker suffered smoke inhalation playing hero Thursday.

  • Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who lost his seat in a Democratic primary in Ohio this spring, may still run in Washington state.

  • Join Christina and Katelyn Polantz (@kpolantz) for a Twitter chat Friday about the NewsHour’s Divided by DC project.

  • Former President Bill Clinton got involved in a Democratic primary in Pennsylvania, endorsing Rep. Mark Critz over Rep. Jason Altmire.

  • Judy Woodruff (@judywoodruff) wrote about a rare event with four women from the Supreme Court.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama has no public campaign events.

  • Vice President Joe Biden has no public campaign events.

  • Mitt Romney will speak at an NRA conference in St. Louis at 2 p.m.

  • Newt Gingrich will also give a speech at the NRA conference.

  • Callista Gingrich will attend the NRA Women’s Leadership Luncheon in St. Louis at 11 a.m.

  • Ron Paul has no public events scheduled.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers and @kpolantz.