WASHINGTON -- Ann Romney fought back Thursday against a Democrat who suggested she's no economic expert because she "hasn't worked a day in her life." Raising the five Romney sons, she said, was such a full-time job that her husband, Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, considered it more important than his work as the family breadwinner.
"He would say, `My job is temporary...Your job is a forever job that's going to bring forever happiness," Ann Romney told Fox News, wading into a multimedia furor over comments by Democratic consultant Hilary Rosen. "Mitt respects women that make those different choices."
First lady Michelle Obama jumped into the fray with this tweet: "Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected. - mo." Tweets tagged "mo" are said to be from the first lady, a mother of two.
The series of exchanges brought the Mommy Wars to the presidential campaign trail as both parties court women voters critical to their prospects in the November election. President Barack Obama's high command demanded that Rosen apologize, while the Democratic National Committee disavowed her comments and her, reflecting the acute sensitivity of both parties about alienating any sub group of female voters.
The multimedia furor erupted Wednesday night when Rosen said on CNN that Ann Romney, whose husband is worth millions, never had to work to pay the bills and should not be her husband's surrogate on women and 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."
The backlash was brutal and swift.
David Axelrod, Obama's top campaign strategist, tweeted that Rosen's comments were "inappropriate and offensive." The president's campaign manager, Jim Messina, said Rosen should apologize. And the Democratic National Committee downplayed any connection to Rosen or her firm.
"What she said was absolutely out of bounds," said DNC Executive Director Patrick Gaspard on MSNBC. "Ann Romney is someone who obviously has worked hard to raise five good boys and she's made some tough choices in her life, I'm certain. Families should be absolutely out of bounds in this discussion."
He added: "Hillary Rosen is absolutely not a paid adviser to the DNC or to the Obama campaign, absolutely not."
Romney's campaign quickly assembled a conference call for reporters with the campaign's female surrogates, who said Rosen's comments pit women who make different choices in a difficult economy against each other.
"The Democrats see them as the key to this election, the Democrats are saving their vitriol for highly successful Republican women, people like, sadly, Mrs. Romney," said Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo. "The Democrats continue their politics of division that President Obama himself said he'd change."
Some of the Republican response was divisive, too.
"Many, many people in the Democratic Party view the choices that Ann Romney made as the greatest threat to feminism," Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of the Independent Women's Forum, said on the same call.
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Thursday deflected questions about Rosen's comment and her visits to the president's office building.
Romney's campaign said Rosen has been to the White House 35 times. Carney said he knows three women with the same name and couldn't be certain that records showing visits to the White House by a similarly named person actually refer to the Democratic strategist.
For her part, Rosen stuck by her argument. She accused Republicans of trying to change the subject by attacking her.