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Obama defends Ann Romney after Democratic consultant's comment

The president said 'there's no tougher job than being a mom' in response to Democratic consultant Hilary Rosen's comments that Mitt Romney's wife wasn't qualified to discuss the economy because she had never worked.

By Laurie KellmanThe Associated Press / April 12, 2012

Ann Romney, the wife of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, has been at the center of a social media firestorm about being a stay-at-home mom.

M. Spencer Green/AP/File

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 The White House — and President Barack Obama himself — rushed into a damage control campaign Thursday to blunt the impact of a Democratic consultant's suggestion that Ann Romney isn't qualified to discuss the economy because she "hasn't worked a day in her life."

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"It was the wrong thing to say," Obama declared in an interview with WCMH-TV in Columbus, Ohio, standing up for Republican rival Mitt Romney's wife with Democrats suddenly on the defensive over women's issues for the first time this election year. Of the "ill-advised statement" by consultant Hilary Rosen, he added, "It's not something that I subscribe to."

In an interview with Cedar Rapids, Iowa, TV station KCRG, the president said "there's no tougher job than being a mom" and cited the efforts of his wife, Michelle, and his own mother, a single woman with two children.

"That's work," he said. "So, anybody who would argue otherwise probably needs to rethink their statement."

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The president's remarks were his answer to Rosen's comments and the Twitter war they ignited. The mere fact that he weighed in on the uproar left no doubt that Democrats want to leave nothing to chance in their effort to keep female voters in the party fold. Women, who are the majority of voters in presidential election years, lean heavily Democratic, and polls show Obama holds a commanding lead among this group so far this year in battleground states.

Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, must win about 40 percent of female voters to have a chance at beating Obama, and he's targeting married women and mothers who tend to be more conservative. Among this group, Ann Romney is popular and has been the candidate's chief surrogate on how the struggling economy has affected women and families.

So while the candidate remained silent Thursday, his campaign pounced when Rosen said on CNN Wednesday that Ann Romney was no expert on the economy.

"His wife has actually never worked a day in her life," Rosen said. "She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of women in this country are facing."

Rosen apologized late Thursday, after first lady Michelle Obama tweeted her own support for women and mothers.

The backlash to Rosen's comments was bipartisan, brutal and swift, crackling across Twitter, cable television and old-fashioned telephone lines. It appeared to have reignited the "Mommy Wars" debate, at least for now, over choices many women make as they juggle motherhood with the work most need to pay bills, college tuition and a semblance of financial security for their families.

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