Ann Romney Fights Back After Democratic Criticism
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish. The Romney in the news today is not so much Mitt; it's his wife Ann. It all started with these comments from a Democratic strategist who is not working for the Obama campaign, Hilary Rosen, who said this on CNN last night during a conversation about Mitt Romney's outreach to women.
HILARY ROSEN: 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. She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that...
CORNISH: The Romney campaign pounced. The first tweet out of Ann Romney's Twitter feed was about this comment and then Mrs. Romney went on Fox News this morning.
ANN ROMNEY: My career choice was to be a mother. And I think all of us need to know that we need to respect choices that women make.
CORNISH: Romney also emphasized on Twitter that being a stay-at-home mom is hard work. Well, here's a twist in this war of words. The Obama campaign is adamantly distancing itself from Hilary Rosen's remarks and calling on her to apologize. To pick up the story and explore what this means for the presidential campaign, we're joined by Melinda Henneberger. She's a political writer and she anchors the "She the People" blog for the Washington Post.
And, Melinda, you've already written about this and you say Mitt Romney should send Hilary Rosen a thank you note. How come?
MELINDA HENNEBERGER: Definitely. She has just given the Romney campaign a big gift. I mean, he does have a problem with women voters. There's something like a 20 point gender gap among women in swing states right now and this really sends the message that some in the Democratic Party don't appreciate the work of women who stay home as real work.
CORNISH: So is this one of those one-day blips in the campaign or is this, you know, a debate over women's roles about to become bigger in this campaign?
HENNEBERGER: Well, the debate over women's votes could hardly be bigger and it's going to, I think, remain a big issue and I don't think this is a one-day story. I did hear that Hilary Rosen had, through CNN, issued a sort of tepid apology, but she kept digging the hole deeper last night on Twitter, saying that what she meant to say is that Ann Romney had not struggled the way a lot of women struggle.
And, you know, Ann Romney, on the other hand, couldn't really have handled it better, saying, you know, sort of, I know that I haven't struggled financially the way other women have, but that doesn't mean my life has been problem-free. And I think we shouldn't forget that, as someone who's had cancer and multiple sclerosis, a lot of women relate to her struggles on that basis, too.
CORNISH: In the end, this seems to be not so much that this comment might hurt Obama with women, but that it has turned Mitt Romney, through Ann Romney, into a more sympathetic character to women. Correct? I mean, it's really more that this helps the Republican campaign in this way?
HENNEBERGER: I think that's absolutely the right way to look at it. It makes working women who may not previously have felt they had a lot in common with Ann Romney begin to wonder if they don't since she's being slammed as being a working mom. I think there was a gap there and Hilary Rosen has helped to bridge it.
CORNISH: One thing I want to get at, though, is, you know, essentially, it sounds like Hilary Rosen was trying to attack the Romneys on what the Democrats perceive as a weak point, that they're out of touch, that the...
CORNISH: The Ann Romney that drives a couple of Cadillacs or whatever it is that Mitt Romney said weeks back...
HENNEBERGER: That's right. That's right.
CORNISH: ...but, instead, they tripped into this other well.
HENNEBERGER: That's right. I think that Hilary Rosen was trying to say, here's Ann Romney riding in on one of her horses or maybe one of her Cadillacs, maybe the one she keeps at the beach house. She doesn't have anything in common with you. And, instead, she wound up suggesting that maybe it's some Democrats who are out of touch, who are so out of touch that they would actually utter something like never worked a day in her life.
CORNISH: Melinda Henneberger, thank you so much for talking with me.
HENNEBERGER: Thank you for having me, Audie.
CORNISH: That was Melinda Henneberger, political writer at the Washington Post. She anchors the blog "She the People." And while Hilary Rosen did say today that her words were poorly chosen, the voices defending stay-at-home moms and Ann Romney continue to pour in. Even President Obama commented during an interview with TV station KCRG in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He said there's no tougher job than being a mom.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Anybody who would argue otherwise, I think, probably needs to rethink their statement.
CORNISH: The president also said he doesn't have a lot of patience for commentary about he spouses of political candidates.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.