Ann Romney flap: Will it help Mitt Romney score points with women?

Hilary Rosen's criticism of Ann Romney may rally stay-at-home-moms behind Mitt Romney. But it likely won't shrink the gender gap, which now gives President Obama a big edge.

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    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, wave as they leave at an election night event in Schaumburg, Ill., last month.
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The brouhaha over Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney having "never worked a day in her life" is now well into Day 2.

It may have been a manufactured controversy (as we wrote Thursday, Ms. Rosen wasn't really criticizing Ms. Romney's choice to stay home, but arguing that her wealth and privilege – including the fact that she was financially free to stay home with her sons – is not the experience of most American women). But manufactured or not, it's certainly received a lot of media attention.

So will this episode play to Mitt Romney's advantage in any substantial way? And specifically, will it help him among women voters who, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, have recently swung even further toward President Obama, backing him by a 19-point margin?

The short answer: It may not do much, if anything, to erase the overall gender gap. But it may help Mr. Romney rally conservative women behind his candidacy.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just over 70 percent of women with at least one child under the age of 18 are in the labor force – meaning they have a paying job or are still looking for one (underscoring Rosen's point that choosing to stay home with kids is an economic luxury most women don't have).

Women who identify themselves as "homemakers" are already 30 percent more likely to identify as Republican, according to Scarborough Research. And the top five locales for stay-at-home moms in the US are among the most conservative spots in the country: Harlingen, Texas (17 percent of the female residents are stay-at-home moms), Salt Lake City (17 percent), Dallas (14 percent), Bakersfield, Calif. (14 percent), and Houston (13 percent). 

These are all areas where, needless to say, Romney is likely to beat Obama handily in the fall. But they are also areas (with the exception of Salt Lake City) where Romney may not have been the first choice among conservatives – and where, despite having the nomination essentially locked up, he could use a boost in enthusiasm for his candidacy.

This stay-at-home-mom flap may have helped do just that.


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