And it was going so well. Until…
The Barack Obama campaign for re-election was sailing along smoother than even his most ardent supporters could have imagined. The effort was bolstered mightily by the president’s unstinting support from women. Every poll had presumed opponent Romney trailing badly among women when compared to Obama.
Then along comes an early campaign gift laid on Mitt Romney’s doorstep all neatly wrapped and ready to opened to the world. It didn’t take long to go viral. The republicans, who are great at immediately reacting to campaign events, would see to that. Seems a Democratic Strategist, Hilary Rosen decided it was a good idea to lambaste the strongest campaign asset in the Romney camp – Ann Romney.
This gaffe heard around the world comes hard on the heels of Romney’s embarrassing pause after being questioned in a press call about whether he supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 (hated by republicans). An aide even intervened and told the reporter that “we’ll get back to you on that.” Even though Romney later allowed as to how he did support the Act, the damage had already been done. Just another nail in the anti-women Romney coffin.
In addition to Ledbetter, there was Obama’s relentless push for reproductive rights for women and the clueless and hateful Limbaugh attack on Sandra Fluke. The lady stars were perfectly aligned. Then a lady comes along and detonates years of work in two incredibly thoughtless and damaging paragraphs.
Hilary Rosen is a major Washington player who runs a Communication’s and P.R. firm. She knows her way around congress as a powerful lobbyist. She has been a frequent commentator and guest on CNN. She was guesting on Anderson Cooper’s AC360 Wednesday night when she decided to spew out the following; “what you have is Mitt Romney running around the country, saying ‘Well you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues, and when I listen to my wife, that’s what I’m hearing.’ Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life.”
Rosen continued, “She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing, in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school, and why do we worry about their future.”
It’s a true statement that Ann Romney has never held a formal job. The campaign has never tried to hide that fact. But there was also another truth apparently lost on Rosen; raising kids is hard and Mrs. Romney immediately pounced on it tweeting, “I made a choice to stay home and raise 5 boys. Believe me, it was hard work.” One of those 5, Josh, posted that his mother “is one of the smartest, hardest working women I know. Could have done anything with her life, chose to raise me.”
To show the gravity of the fallout, one of the first democratic responses came from the party’s strategic majordomo, Senior Advisor, David Axelrod. He tweeted, “Also Disappointed in Hilary Rosen’s comments about Ann Romney, they were inappropriate and offensive.”
Here’s the problem for the Obama campaign. Ann Romney has a compelling and in many ways heartrending back-story. In 1997 she was diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis. It’s currently in remission, but it’s a serious condition that can reappear and have devastating consequences. She is also a breast cancer survivor having undergone a lumpectomy and radiation treatment in 2008. She’s been active in the children’s charity, “Operation Kids” and was the recipient of the MS Society’s Annual Hope Award.
Rosen made a couple of weak Twitter attempts to soften her stance; “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.”
Or how about this one? “When I said Ann Romney never worked, I meant she never had to care for her kids AND (caps hers) earn a paycheck like MOST American women.”
Lame and late. Especially given Ann’s health problems AND caring for her kids.
So, what’s the next move? It’s called damage control. A single misplaced statement can sink a campaign. Just ask Mitt Romney whose dad, George, might have been president if not for an offhand remark that he had been ‘brainwashed’ by the military on Vietnam. That was it. No more candidate George. Rosen is not at the very top echelons of the Obama campaign, but she’s close enough that come late summer the airwaves will be inundated with clips form the Cooper interview.
The obvious response is to give her the old heave-ho. Not so fast. First of all, she’s a woman. A man would have rightfully been gone before he left the studio. But Rosen will have her defenders, mostly working women. She is also strongly backed be the GLBT community that she has worked closely with and lobbied for for a number of years. She also set up a social network for Lesbians, another source of strong support. And – she was a strong advocate and lobbyist for the music industry. That has implications for the youth vote. So kicking Hilary to the curb isn’t as obvious as it seems.
On the other hand, not kicking her to the curb would be strongly spun during the general election presidential campaign as proof that for Obama, stay at home moms are to be less respected than working women. If this isn’t dealt with promptly and properly, it will cost Obama a percentage of his base and that could cost him the election.
Virtually every major election has it’s tipping point or 2 or 3. This is one of them. You can bet that the Romney camp is looking high and low for a female Vice-President based on this latest development. Even though this flap may not last through more than a few news cycles, I guarantee you it will pop up big-time when things get down to the wire.
My guess is that you’ve heard the last of Ms. Rosen in an official capacity.
Editor’s Note: First Lady Michelle Obama