Ann Romney’s Resume Gaps
Only two days after Rick Santorum exited the race, the first skirmish of the general election has broken out. “Democratic strategist” and CNN pundit Hillary Rosen knocked Ann Romney for “never working a day in her life.” Ann Romney joined Twitter and said “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work,” and suddenly it became the biggest political story of the day.
The Huffington Post has as its banner a story that basically mocks the kerfuffle and calls it meaningless, but I’m not so sure. In recent weeks I’ve seen stories that say that Democratic consultants consider Ann Romney to be a wild card in the race. She’s perceived as an effective communicator and far more personable than her husband. “Republican strategist,” Romney ’08 advisor, and CNN pundit Alex Castellanos said, “She’s terribly important in that she is actually Mitt’s connection to the base. His link to the base doesn’t come from ideology. It comes from family values channeled through Ann. She’s the authentic core of Romney’s conservative principles.” Romney strategists also see her as vital in their appeal towards women. So Ann Romney was going to have a significant role in this election even before this recent skirmish.
Rosen’s criticism reveals the Democrats’ antidote to the “Ann Romney problem.” The narrative they want to shape is: regardless of how personable Mrs. Romney is she’s still fundamentally out of touch with the average American. She hasn’t faced the pressures that face ordinary Americans because of her personal wealth. There are many mothers with five children who simply don’t have the choice to stay home and raise their kids as a full time mother; the federal government doesn’t give welfare benefits to mothers who choose not to work to raise their children. It seems that public opinion is against Rosen, but she’s brought up the issue of the Romney’s wealth. Ann Romney can choose to not have a job during a time when many Americans are desperately seeking one. The Romney’s wealth promises to be an issue that is reiterated and reargued again and again in the coming months.
Also implicit in Rosen’s comments is another criticism of the Republicans’ “war on women.” As Romney tries to shift away from the primary debates over contraception, the Democrats will want to continue to harp on the idea that Romney’s views on women are outdated. Rosen has set up a schema wherein the Romney’s live in a “Leave it to Beaver” world. Women, and their families, are best served by a stay at home mother who isn’t granted the freedom to lead an independent life. This is a point that I think comes down to a fundamental difference of opinion; as Castellanos pointed out, many conservatives would have no problem with the previous statement, while many liberals would probably see it as hopelessly outdated.
The battle is also interesting for the mediums in which it occurred. Rosen was on CNN, a channel that runs commentary on the Presidential election 24/7. In CNN’s effort to have interesting and informed pundits fill their roundtables, they’ve basically farmed out journalism to political hacks. Instead of giving unbiased coverage, cable news networks reporting is normally just a reiteration of the debate by supposedly unaffiliated consultants. Mrs. Romney’s response through Twitter illustrates a new battlefield for the 2012 election. Twitter, with it’s real time response capability, will likely be the battleground where debates are shaped and controversies are rebutted. Twitter is a volatile medium, there is little editorial presence, and there will likely be some major gaffes committed by both sides in the social media spheres. We can look forward to seven more months of these silly battles. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “We will fight them on the television, on the Internet, on the radio, on the message boards, on the blogs, we will fight.”
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