The whole Hilary Rosen flap says more about where we are in the election cycle than anything about working women or stay-at-home moms. Everyone knows it is politics, but that isn’t going to stop the story.
This afternoon, President Obama weighed in, saying that she needed to “rethink” her statement. Mitt Romney’s campaign, under pressure to shore up its support among women, took the comment and ran with it, as it issued statements, abetted a Twitter backlash and even raised money on Rosen’s comment that Ann Romney has “never worked a day in her life.” Some of the most incendiary came on Twitter, where debate devolved into whether an adoptive parent (which Rosen is) is better than a birth parent (which Ann Romney is).
Ever since Rush Limbaugh apologized for offensive comments about Sandra Fluke, putting Republicans on the defensive, there has been an effort to establish an equivalence that will do the same to the Democrats. Bill Maher, fresh off of making a $1 million donation to an Obama SuperPAC, briefly became an issue over comments he made about Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. Now Rosen is being called out, even if she does not have the reach or influence of either of them. The point is to tie her to the Democratic party and White House, even if she is a strategist and not on the DNC or White House payroll. (Republicans, however, are noting that she has been a frequent White House visitor and making the case that she is an informal to the Democrats.)
It’s only April, and this is just the start of a battle not necessarily to win hearts and minds on substance, but by mere fact of keeping something front and center in the news cycle, or the top trending topic on Twitter.
Rosen, by the way, explained her remarks last night and issued this apology this afternoon.
“Let’s put the faux ‘war against stay at home moms’ to rest once and for all. As a mom, I know that raising children is the hardest job there is. As a pundit, I know my words on CNN last night were poorly chosen. In response to Mitt Romney on the campaign trail referring to his wife as a better person to answer questions about women than he is, I was discussing his poor record on the plight of women’s financial struggles.”
“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.”
Just how this all plays — like whether it actually moves the numbers for Mitt Romney with women — will speak volumes about how politics plays in the age of social media.