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Parties continue to skirmish over the female vote

By Gabriella Schwarz, CNN
updated 10:21 AM EDT, Mon April 16, 2012
Abortion-rights protesters rally last month outside a Washington hotel where presidential hopeful Mitt Romney held a fundraiser.
Abortion-rights protesters rally last month outside a Washington hotel where presidential hopeful Mitt Romney held a fundraiser.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tim Geithner defends Obama's record on job creation
  • Romney supporters say GOP candidate's proposals will benefit women
  • Recent poll shows Obama leading Romney among women
  • Firestorm began with Democratic strategist's comments last week about Ann Romney

Washington (CNN) -- Both political parties continued jockeying Sunday to position themselves as more deserving of the female vote, a battle that took on new life last week after a Democratic strategist questioned Ann Romney's validity in giving her husband advice on economic issues affecting women.

The criticism from Hilary Rosen, also a CNN contributor, rekindled the national conversation on whether Republicans or Democrats are better equipped to improve economic conditions for women and gave Republicans a line of attack against Democrats. Polls show a majority of female voters favor President Barack Obama over presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner defended the Obama administration's record on job creation and accused Mitt Romney of leveling "ridiculous" accusations against the president's policies. He specifically pointed to Romney's claim that 92.3% of jobs lost in the country were among women.

A different take on the 'mom wars'
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"It's a ridiculous and deeply misleading look at the economy," Geithner said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "Remember the recession and the crisis started at the beginning of 2008 before the president took office. It caused a huge amount of damage to men, to women, to families. And the damage lasted for a time, and you're still seeing the scars of that."

The 92.3% figure was batted back and forth to jab Obama in the latest skirmish in the war over women. Although the number is correct, when including non-farm-employed women from January 2009 -- when Obama took office -- to March 2012, women have gained 863,000 jobs since February 2010. The percentage also does not reflect that men constituted a much larger chunk of the job-loss pie in the year leading up to Obama's inauguration.

Geithner stressed the downturn "hurt everybody," and unsurprisingly rallied behind the president's proposals, including the "Buffett Rule," which he said is part of a comprehensive plan that will continue to improve the country's economic outlook.

But Romney backers, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, argued that the former Massachusetts governor is armed with proposals that will not only court female voters, but also turn the economy around.

McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, predicted Romney would win the female vote, despite the gender gap in current polling.

"I do believe that Ann Romney was right when she said the women she talks to and the women I talk to, traveling around my state, are interested in jobs and the economy," McCain said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "There's no doubt that a lot of women have been hurt very badly in this recession. And jobs and the economy is their No. 1 priority."

A recent poll from ABC News/Washington Post showed Obama leading Romney among women, 57% to 38%, despite his single-digit lead among all voters over the former Massachusetts governor in a hypothetical general-election matchup.

Ann Romney, a mother of five, came to her own defense and the defense of her husband on Thursday after Rosen questioned her qualifications for advising her husband, given she had "never worked a day in her life." Rosen later apologized for her comments, but not before igniting a firestorm.

Rosen responds to firestorm over Ann Romney comment

Rodgers, who was one of the women dispatched by the Romney campaign to capitalize on Rosen's comment last week, told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley that her candidate's policies will "help women succeed in this country and all people in this country succeed."

"President Obama's policies are the ones that are failing, Americans failing women," she added on CNN's "State of the Union."

Opinion: Not another Mommy War

After calling Rosen's comments "shocking and insulting," Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota returned to the Republican line, saying "women have born the brunt of the failed economic policies under Barack Obama."

"There's no question his economic policies have had a disproportionate negative impact on women and that's why I think women are going to be very upset with this current administration," the former presidential candidate said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

The back-and-forth over female support is the latest Twitter- and cable-fed controversy to show the general election between Romney and Obama is already under way.

Rosen: It's not personal, it's politics

On CNN's "State of the Union," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus would not yet characterize Romney as the "presumptive nominee" out of respect for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who remain in the race. However, Romney's significant advantages on all fronts make it highly likely he will face Obama for the presidency.

Newly into the second quarter of fund-raising, both Romney and Obama will travel in the coming week in hopes of aiding their campaign coffers. The president, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will all hold fund-raising events in the next week. Obama is scheduled to campaign in Michigan, while his wife will be in Washington, D.C., Tennessee and Pennsylvania. Biden will host events in Washington, D.C., Arizona and California.

Romney, too, will attempt to bring in money through events in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Ann Romney is scheduled host a birthday-themed fund-raiser in New York on Tuesday, one day after she and her husband sit down for a joint interview with ABC News set to air Monday night.

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