WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama--in what for her is an extraordinary move--jumped in to help with damage control on Thursday after a Democratic strategist said Ann Romney, the mother of five, "never worked a day in her life."
Mrs. Obama waded in via a Tweet on the Obama campaign re-election site: "Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected," signed with her initials to show that she sent the message--and not a staffer.
The dust-up comes as a gift to the Mitt Romney campaign, facing the general election battle against President Barack Obama with polls showing women favoring Obama. UPDATES Rosen apologizes to Ann Romney.
Former First Lady Barbara Bush weighs in for Romney campaign HERE. END UPDATES
This ball got rolling on Wednesday by Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist, a CNN political contributor and a working mother, while Rosen was appearing on a CNN show. Rosen does not work for the Obama campaign or the Democratic National Committee. As are many partisan pundits, she is well connected.
After Rosen's remarks, the Romney and Obama campaigns swung into action.
Romney's team found an opening to have Ann Romney-- one of her husband's most effective--but not well known surrogates--up her profile and appeal to women, while the Obama team played defense.
"Also Disappointed in Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney. They were inappropriate and offensive," Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, posted on his Twitter feed.
Jim Messina, Obama campaign manager said, "I could not disagree with Hilary Rosen any more strongly. Her comments were wrong and family should be off limits. She should apologize."
Rosen brushed up against an unwritten rule: Never, ever, suggest that mothers don't work and expect a spanking if you do.
Appearing on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" on Wednesday, Rosen, talking about the economy and Romney said, "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 a majority off 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 continued, adding that Romney "just seems so old fashioned when it comes to women."
Those comments opened a new front in the Obama/Romney battle fought on TV, Twitter and press statements.
Ann Romney made her first Twitter tweet on Wednesday saying, "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work."
Then appearing on Fox News, Mrs. Romney said, "Other women make other choices to have a career and raise a family, which I think Hilary Rosen has actually done herself. I respect that. That's wonderful.
"But you know there are other people that have a choice. We have to respect women in all those choices that they made."
Rosen defended and explained her comments in a series of tweets on her Twitter feed.
"When I said @AC360 Ann Romney never worked I meant she never had to care for her kids AND earn a paycheck like MOST American women!," Rosen wrote.
She added, "I've nothing against @AnnRomney. I just don't want Mitt using her as an expert on women struggling $ to support their family. She isn't."
Much of the 2012 presidential campaign will be fought over Twitter. As Rosen noted in a tweet, "oh and @AnnDRomney welcome to Twitter. You will find it a very exhilarating and often unforgiving place!"
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