Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, at a campaign rally in Illinois. (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press )
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Stepping into the middle of a heated debate over how women have fared under President Obama’s economic policies, Ann Romney made her debut on Twitter on Wednesday night — defending her decision to forgo a professional career and raise her five sons at home.
On a day when Obama's and Mitt Romney’s campaigns battled furiously over whose policies would be more beneficial to women in the workplace, Ann Romney entered the Twittersphere for the first time to respond to comments by Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, who suggested during a CNN interview that Romney should not be consulting his wife about the plight of women in the workplace.
“Guess what, his wife has actually never worked a day in her life,” Rosen told CNN host Anderson Cooper during a discussion about the back-and-forth between the two campaigns Wednesday. “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.”
Rosen, who has no role in the Obama campaign and supported Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008, added that Romney “seems so old-fashioned when it comes to women, and I think that comes across, and I think that’s going to hurt him over the long term. He just doesn’t really see us as equal.”
“I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys,” Ann Romney responded over Twitter a few hours later under the handle @AnnDRomney (which was verified as official by the Romney campaign). “Believe me, it was hard work."
In a race that could pivot on the support of moderate and independent women that both campaigns targeted in recent days, top officials in the Obama campaign moved swiftly to distance themselves from Rosen’s remarks.
“I could not disagree with Hilary Rosen any more strongly,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a tweet. “Her comments were wrong and family should be off-limits. She should apologize.”
Obama advisor David Axelrod followed suit: “Also disappointed in Hilary Rosen’s comments about Ann Romney. They were inappropriate and offensive.”
Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, replied to Messina’s tweet by stating that “families must be off-limits on campaigns, and I personally believe stay-at-home moms work harder than most of us do.”
Outraged Romney supporters also registered their disapproval through social media. One of Romney’s five sons, Josh, described his mother in a tweet as “one of the smartest, hardest-working women I know. Could have done anything with her life, chose to raise me.”
Prominent female surrogates for Romney also weighed in. Alluding to Rosen’s remark that Ann Romney had “never worked a day in her life,” Washington state Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers wrote on Twitter: “Wrong. Being a mom is a full-time job.”
Highlighting the potential difficulties ahead for the Obama campaign, other Romney fans pointed to the connection between Obama and Rosen’s communications firm, SKDKnickerbocker. One of the firm’s managing directors, former White House communications director Anita Dunn, was intimately involved with Obama’s 2008 campaign. (Rosen, however, did not join SKDKnickerbocker until 2010, according to the firm’s website).
Despite calls for an apology, Rosen did not back away from her comments on her Twitter feed (@hilaryr). When a reporter tweeted that she had become a campaign story despite not being involved with any campaign, she wrote “Bring it on!”
“I have nothing against" Ann Romney, Rosen wrote on Twitter after her CNN appearance. “I just don’t want Mitt using her as an expert on women struggling $ to support their family. She isn’t.”
Later directing her comments to Ann Romney, Rosen said: “Please know, I admire you. But your husband shouldn’t say you are his expert on women and the economy.”
Within a few hours of her debut, Ann Romney had amassed more than 5,200 followers on Twitter.