President Obama responded to a Democratic strategist's criticism… (AFP/Getty Images )
Reporting from Chicago —
President Obama, addressing the swirling controversy over a Democratic strategist’s comments about Ann Romney, declared that “there is no tougher job than being a mom” and that the families of candidates should be off limits.
The president said he knows well how hard mothers work from his own upbringing and from raising daughters with his wife, Michelle.
“When I think about what Michelle’s had to do, when I think about my own mom, a single mother raising me and my sister, that’s work,” the president said in a Thursday interview at the White House with anchor Bruce Aune of KCRG-TV of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “So anybody who would argue otherwise I think probably needs to rethink their statement.”
Obama, whose wife became part of the political debate in the 2008 campaign and has been a target of criticism during her time as first lady, said pundits should limit their focus to candidates, and not “civilians” in their family.
“I don’t have a lot of patience for commentary about the spouses of political candidates,” he said.
In a separate interview, Vice President Joe Biden called Hillary Rosen’s comments about Ann Romney “outrageous.”
“My daughter happens to have a master’s degree, she’s a social worker, she’s getting married and if my daughter wants to be able to say, 'I’m staying home and raising my kids,' no one should question it,” he told MSNBC’s Ed Schultz.
Rosen on Wednesday criticized Mitt Romney for touting his wife as a trusted economic advisor because, Rosen claimed, Ann Romney has “never worked a day in her life.” Rosen initially stood by her comments on Thursday morning, and then tried to clarify them by saying she was making the point that life is far more difficult for mothers who have to raise children and hold a job to make ends meet.
Rosen, who works for a strategic communications firm in Washington, D.C., apologized to Ann Romney a few hours later in a statement, acknowledging her words were “poorly chosen.”
“As a partner in a firm full of women who work outside of the home as well as stay-at-home mothers, all with plenty of children, gender equality is not a talking point for me. It is an issue I live every day. I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended. Let’s declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance,” Rosen wrote.
Meanwhile, the campaigns fired back and forth as the incident played out as an general election skirmish over female voters. Polls show women favor Obama over Romney, who surveys show has suffered amid Republican attacks on women’s reproductive rights and on Obama’s support of guaranteed access to contraceptives through health insurance plans.
As criticism of Rosen grew on Thursday, the Romney campaign also started a “Moms Drive the Economy” campaign that offers a bumper sticker for a $6 campaign contribution.
The Obama campaign attempted to distance themselves quickly from Rosen and limit any fallout, and Obama himself made clear his focus was on Mitt Romney alone.
“I haven’t met Mrs. Romney but she seems like a very nice woman who’s supportive of her family and supportive of her husband. I don’t know if she necessarily volunteered for this job,” he said. “We don’t need to be directing comments at them. I think me and Gov. Romney are going to have more than enough to argue about during the course of this campaign.”