msnbc | April 13, 2012
>>> well, also in the news this morning, the renewed focus from the romney campaign on women voters getting this unexpected boost, but the president's team is not sitting on the sidelines of this one. ann romney as you probably heard has been thrust onto the stage of the campaign battle. and her husband in standing up for stay-at-home moms across america. hilary rosen 's comments about romney 's wife have sparked this national discussion and put some of the big names walking the white house halls into damage control mode.
>> my response is that's an outrageous assertion. if my daughter wants to be able to say i'm staying home and raising my kids, no one should question that.
>> i think we can all agree, democrats and republicans, that raising children is an extremely difficult job.
>> i've watched michelle, you know, who for most of her career had to juggle work and family, but there were times where she was on maternity leave. and i promise you, that's work. so i think this was an ill-advised statement by somebody on television.
>> let's bring in our friday the 13th political power panel. it is friday the 13th, gang. nbc latino's alicia mendened ez. chip salzman. and roll call staff writer david drucker. do you think friday the 13th will make any of this go away? probably not. but david , i'm going to start with you because the first lady has weighed in here with her tweets saying "every mother works hard. every woman deserves to be respected." so the president, first lady, vice president, the press secretary has come out, this just crossed my desk. another tweet from hilary rosen that came out at 10:39 saying "i deeply apologize again to work and home moms, mrs. romney and the potus." not going on "meet the press" this weekend. i'm going to be a mom who stays home." so david , how can this i guess snare trap that the left seems to have fallen in go away? or is this something that's going to be talked about as a priority for the next couple of weeks?
>> well, it will eventually go away. all gaffes do, all dust-ups like this do. but i think it's instructive and reminds us of something. don't attack the spouse of a political candidate, particularly if that spouse is likeable and good on the stump. even though wives and husbands have become real integral parts of the campaign, they've become top surrogates, in a sense you'd think that would make them on limits as opposed to off limits. but it just isn't so. and that was the first mistake that hilary rosen made in my estimation. i think what she was trying to do was to play into what democrats are trying to do with mitt romney , which is to say he's a big rich guy who doesn't understand what you're going through and that goes for his wife too. but it doesn't work that way when you're talking about a spouse because she is very empathetic. and i think that as a general rule of thumb moms talking to other moms get each other even if one makes more money than the other.
>> alicia , let's talk about what the right is doing because sarah palin jumped into this debate with both feet last night. take a listen to this.
>> the comments that hillary rosen made today certainly have awakened many mama grizzlies across the nation. why is it that some on the left choose to divide, to incite with comments like that instead of just respecting women 's choices?
>> mama grizzlies coming out of hibernation to get around mitt romney . so the contraception debate alienated a lot of women voters, alicia . is mitt romney going to make some of that ground up? everything we've seen just over the last couple of days.
>> well, i think this is definitely good press for the romney campaign. it's a sugar high . there are no policies that actually support moms who stay at home . if that's what we were really going after here, we'd hear mitt romney talking about moms who stay at home being able to contribute to 401(k)s. we'd hear about working wages for stay-at-home moms. we're not actually talking about policy. and i think once women voters take a look at the policies, see his position on lilly ledbetter , his unclear position on lilly ledbetter , see his unwillingness to go after the governor of wisconsin when he overturns fair pay legislation, i think that's what women voters actually care about.
>> take us inside the presidential campaign itself. what is the romney team absorbing from this over the last 24, 48 hours , and how is it going to affect positive messaging going forward?
>> well, i think the one thing they've gotten is they've got the president's campaign on defense. the fact of what you said earlier, all these people weighed in on, this means they're playing defense, they're not talking about anything else except this. and i think the one thing we've learned is a lesson i've learned in my family for a long time, don't mess with mom. that'll get new trouble. if mom's not happy, nobody's happy. and i think the romney campaigns are going to try to ride this out as much as they can. know they it's more of a short-term deal but they're going to use this as much as they can over the next couple of months.
>> well, of course, as we're seeing even stuff that -- swag people can buy now, the romney team capitalizing financially in the short term on this. $6 for a "moms drive the economy" bumper sticker. the bigger issue, though, for mitt romney is the failure to connect. and as we're all trying to figure out exactly what hilary rosen was trying to say, we have yet to hear mitt romney , alicia , finally say, when i speak to women , when women talk to me about the economy, while i'm out on the stump, this is what a woman says to me. is that what voters need to hear? because while everybody talks about the mommy wars and war on women , this is avoiding the fact that we're not hearing mitt romney say i directly talk to the female voter myself.
>> right. it turns out that we're some foreign species to mitt romney . and that's exactly what he needs to do. he needs to be talking not just about the fact that ann is interfacing with women voters but the fact that he fundamentally understands the challenges that women face. whether that's questions about access to contraceptions, when we choose to have children, how many we choose to have, what that means for our bottom lines, he's going to need to be able to speak to that in the first person.
>> all right. so chip, when we talk about the strategy here, obviously ann coming out, as you say, certainly very likeable, people getting to know her more right now as being part of the campaign team of the romneys, mitt being the voice on the economy, does that make ann this relatable figure that humanizes him across the entire republican platform?
>> i think it does. and ann is, like david was saying earlier, a lot of empathy for ann for not only her life story but what she's meant to the campaign. and so far in this campaign, as we saw when he he won states and when he lost states, ann was the one introducing mitt. and she was talking about how mitt understands jobs and the economy and the economy is important to women , the jobs are important to women , and basically giving him a mum ize humanizing role. and i think a lot of times spouse oz do that for their candidate male or female. and i think she's going to do a very important role in this matter.
>> david , i want to get you on the big picture as we look at this new fox news poll that has mitt romney ahead of the president right there. 46% to 44%. do you think that this discussion over women is going to cause this big shift either way in the numbers, or is it just too early?
>> i think it's too early to worry about the horse race . but i do think that both sides are going to be jockeying for position with key demographics. female voters are key. male voters you could also say are important. independents are important. and i think that this is the beginning. both sides and their supporters are going to make mistakes along the way and do things that are helpful along the way. i don't think we're going to know much about the horse race until we get to the fall. just after labor day . but i think this shows that we're in for a very competitive race. and i think one thing that the romney campaign showed this week is that their campaign organization can use social media to fight back against the president. that's been one of his strong suits, what he can do with his organization. so this could be a very fair fight.
>> they show they know how to pivot. that's for sure. david drucker, alicia menendez, chip saltzman, thanks to all three of you.