Ann Romney and Hilary Rosen flap: Must Team Obama always be first responder?(Read article summary)
President and Michelle Obama both did damage control after Hilary Rosen's off-key comment about Ann Romney and stay-at-home moms. What will happen the next time a Democratic pundit misspeaks in front of the cameras?
The Ann Romney flap may have unintentional consequences for Team Obama.
When Democratic activist Hilary Rosen dissed Ann Romney Wednesday, saying she has â€śnever worked a day in her life,â€ť the president, first lady, and countless other Democrats swooped in and condemned the slam on the wife of presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney. Ms. Rosen apologized for her â€śpoorly chosenâ€ť words.
So what happens the next time someone in the vast universe of Democratic strategists and cable TV pundits makes an untoward remark about a critical issue or voter group? Will President Obama or his surrogates have to step in? And if they donâ€™t, will Mr. Obama be blamed for tacitly condoning the comment?
Liberal editorialist Jonathan Capehart set up that test Thursday. In a Washington Post blog entry called â€śSelective outrage: Hilary Rosen vs. Allen West,â€ť Mr. Capehart raised the Florida Republican congressmanâ€™s statement Tuesday that he believes there are â€śabout 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party.â€ť Itâ€™s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congressman West said.
Certainly, a preposterous assertion, as Capehart notes. Maybe so preposterous that it doesnâ€™t deserve a reply. But then Capehart scolds GOP leaders for not condemning the McCarthy-esque allegation.
As a practical matter, Obama and Company canâ€™t strike down every off-key remark by an ally uttered in front of the ever-proliferating cameras. They would start to look like kids at an arcade playing Whac-A-Mole.
But clearly, the Rosen comment hit a nerve right as Mr. Romney had effectively locked in the Republican presidential nomination, and attention had turned to the general election. Obama is winning big among women, and needs to keep that advantage to win in November. With one off-hand comment â€“suggesting that Mrs. Romney canâ€™t understand womenâ€™s struggles because she hasnâ€™t worked outside the home â€“ Rosen handed a gift to Mr. Romney right when he needed it.
The Romney campaign has followed with a fundraising e-mail titled â€śWar on Moms.â€ť It says: "If you're a stay-at-home mom, the Democrats have a message for you: You've never worked a day in your life."
According to the latest census data, about 1 in 4 women with children under 15 is not working outside the home. That is a significant voting bloc â€“ and most arenâ€™t wealthy like Ann Romney. Mrs. Romney herself noted on Thursday that she has had struggles of her own, particularly with her health.
In addition, Mrs. Romney has carved out an image as an appealing surrogate for her husband, complete with stories about how exhausting it was to raise five boys. Polls show her favorability rating far exceeds her negatives.
So for Obama, the Rosen comment created a PR emergency on multiple levels: She had disrespected a big voting bloc and had gone after a candidateâ€™s wife. Team Obama pushed the panic button.
â€śI donâ€™t have a lot of patience for commentary about the spouses of political candidates,â€ť the president said.
Rosenâ€™s gaffe was arguably as big as Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstromâ€™s Etch-a-Sketch comment â€“ though Rosen doesnâ€™t work for Obama. Still, she has sparked a â€śmommy warsâ€ť discussion that continued to rage Friday. The next time a Democratic pundit blunders on camera â€“ and it will surely happen â€“everyone will be watching to see whether it merits a presidential response. And yes or no, that will tell us something about Obamaâ€™s priorities.