The battle for women is on.
It erupted yesterday after Democrats seized on comment from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus who, in an interview, disputed the notion that the GOP was waging a "war on women."
"If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars, and mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we have problems with caterpillars," Priebus told Bloomberg's Al Hunt.
President Obama's deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter shot back: "Reince Priebus' comparison of Republican attempts to limit women's access to mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, and contraception to a 'war on caterpillars' shows how little regard leading Republicans, including Mitt Romney, have for women's health," she said.
The caterpillar story may not have legs - pun intended - beyond this week, but this battle is just beginning.
As caterpillar-gate was raging yesterday, President Obama and all of the Republican presidential candidates weighed in on whether Georgia's Augusta golf club should admit women - all in the affirmative.
And earlier this week polls showed Mitt Romney losing badly among women and independent women, in particular. The campaign has deployed Romney's wife, Ann, as a secret weapon. She is now his "translator" to the mysterious world of "women voters."
In a recent interview on Fox News, Mitt said: "I've had the fun of being out with my wife the last several days on the campaign trail. And she points out that as she talks to women, they tell her that their number one concern is the economy. "
But his outreach to women often looks more staged than organic
And speaking of staged outreach to women, on the same day as today's jobs report, President Obama is hosting a White House Forum on Women and the Economy this morning. He may comment on today's jobs report.
JOBS NUMBERS: The economy created 120,000 jobs in March. This is below economist expectations of 200,000 new jobs. The private sector, which factors out government layoffs and hiring, saw 121,000 workers added to payrolls. Employment rose in manufacturing, food services and drinking places, and health care, but was down in retail trade. (h/t ABC News Business Unit)
GOP COUNTER-PROGRAMMING: "Today's jobs numbers reflect a stagnant and far too weak economic recovery," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. "Unemployment is still unacceptably high and far too few people are in the labor force. Too many families continue to endure the pain of joblessness."
THIS WEEK ON "THIS WEEK." In a special Easter Sunday broadcast of "This Week," Pastor Rick Warren speaks exclusively about the spiritual state of the nation with ABC News Senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper. Before Warren's Easter Sunday sermon "Trusting in God When You Don't Feel Like Trusting Him," the founder of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. and the best-selling author of "The Purpose Driven Life," talks candidly about the country's reignited culture wars, his view of the proper intersection of church and state, as well as finding comfort and keeping faith in difficult times. Tapper also speaks with Warren's wife, Kay Warren, on her new book "Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn't Enough." Then, a powerhouse roundtable debates all the week's politics, with ABC News' George Will, Yahoo News Washington bureau chief David Chalian, author and Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson, Thomson Reuters digital editor Chrystia Freeland, and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan. http://abcn.ws/I6e8AM (h/t ABC's Imtiyaz Delawala)
WASHINGTON WATCHDOG: GSA UNDER FIRE OVER VIDEO SPOOF. The same government agency already under fire for wasteful spending at a Las Vegas conference is under further scrutiny for a newly discovered video featuring a U.S. General Services Administration employee joking about excess government spending, ABC's Jake Taper and John R. Parkinson report. The video features a GSA employee, identified as Hank Terlaje, playing the ukulele to the tune of Travie McCoy & Bruno Mars' "I Wanna Be a Billionaire," and rapping about what life would be like were he to become the GSA administrator, or in his parlance "Commissioner." Among his promises, ironically, is that the agency would "never be under OIG investigation." "Obama better prepare, when I'm Commissioner," he croons. "I'd have a road show like [Acting Regional GSA Administrator Jeffrey] Neely, every time you see me rolling on 20s yeah, in my GOV. Spend BA 61 all on fun. ATF can't touch GS-15 guns! Cause I buy everything your field office can't afford. Every GS-5 would get a top hat award. Donate my vacation, love to the nation, I'll never be under OIG investigation."
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was blistering in his attack on the GSA and the Obama administration. "It takes a lot of work to spend $3,000 a person and at a time when unemployment was nearly 10 percent, Americans were suffering and GSA was enjoying the good times and doing so with high-ranking political employees," Issa said. "This administration knew about this 11 months ago and they didn't act until the press got wind of it. This is typically what has been happening in this administration. They are only transparent when they are discovered." http://abcn.ws/HhliC9 Watch Tapper's "World News" report: http://abcn.ws/HiOSlV
NOTED: Read House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa's letter to the GSA Inspector General asking for additional information in light of the news that former GSA Administrator Martha Johnson was briefed in detail on this scandal in May of 2011. http://1.usa.gov/HOm2w0
CONSERVATIVES STILL SEARCHING FOR THE ANTI-ROMNEY. A group of conservative leaders gathered in Virginia on Thursday for a closed-door meeting with Rick Santorum to determine whether the Republican Party can coalesce behind an alternative to Mitt Romney. The verdict? "I think it can be done," conservative activist and Santorum supporter Richard Viguerie said in an interview with ABC News. "We all left excited. We're going to wait for instructions from Rick." But Viguerie, one of the gathering's organizers who invited Santorum to join, acknowledged "there's no question that we have lost control of the narrative." The veteran GOP strategist said the goal of Thursday's meeting was to come up with a list of "big bold ideas to grab control of the narrative and turn the campaign around." He said the conservative conclave tossed around some "really bold, unprecedented" proposals and that it was now up to the Santorum campaign to put them into action. Officials with the campaign declined to discuss specifics. The delegate count loomed large in Thursday's discussion, participants noted, as well as the future of Newt Gingrich's candidacy. But the group's goal was not necessarily to hasten the former House Speaker's exit from the race, according to attendees. Others who participated in the meeting either in person or by phone included Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and conservative activists Gary Bauer and Rebecca Hagelin. As for Santorum, "the clear message from him is that he's in this and that he wouldn't be in this if he want passionate about winning," said L. Brent Bozell, the chairman of the conservative activist group For America. http://abcn.ws/Hq7ELD
OBAMA CAMPAIGN DEMANDS A LOOK AT ROMNEY'S ASSETS. The Obama re-election campaign seized on a report that suggests Mitt Romney is using ethics exceptions to avoid disclosing some of his financial investments, ABC's Emily Friedman notes. Obama's team has gone as far as using the president's Twitter handle to lob attacks on the GOP candidate. The account linked to the president's name tweeted a link to the report, published by the Washington Post, that said that Romney has "taken advantage of an obscure exception in federal ethics laws to avoid disclosing the nature and extent of his holdings." "By offering a limited description of his assets, Romney has made it difficult to know precisely where his money is invested, whether it is offshore or in controversial companies," the article said. In addition, the Post reported that in 48 accounts from Bain Capital, the firm Romney founded in Boston and touts daily on the trail, he did not reveal his assets. In a written statement to ABC News, Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said, "President Obama will do anything to try and distract Americans from his failed record of chronic unemployment, lower incomes and higher gas prices. The PFD completely and accurately describes Gov. Romney's assets as required by the law applicable to candidates for president," said Saul. "If [the U.S. Office of Government Ethics] had at any point considered any part of the filing insufficient, it would have made this clear." http://abcn.ws/HUc5zi
GINGRICH THINK TANK FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY. The health care think tank founded by Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The Center for Health Transformation (CHT), headed by chairman Nancy Desmond, filed for bankruptcy in Atlanta, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Gingrich sold his share of the CHT and Gingrich Group to the CHT May 10, 2011, and relinquished any legal connection with them. The center will go out of business in light of liabilities between $1 million and $10 million and between 50 and 99 creditors, according to the Associated Press. The group had assets of only up to $100,000, the AP reported. One source familiar with the group told ABC News that the bankruptcy was "not surprising." "In reality," the source said, the group was "a personal service deal, companies paid for him, when there was no more him, no more company." Gingrich's former communications director, Rick Tyler told ABC News: "There are very few people capable of successfully leading such an organization. It's unfortunate, but not surprising, that without Newt Gingrich's leadership, the organization failed." http://abcn.ws/HrX2rE
WHITE HOUSE EASTER EGG ROLL DRAWS STAR POWER. The Easter Bunny won't be the only celebrity coming to the White House on Monday for the 134th annual Easter Egg Roll. Stars from Sesame Street, Hollywood and some of the nation's finest restaurants are slated to join the more than 30,000 visitors for games, stories and, of course, the traditional egg roll at the White House. While the event is rich in tradition, it's also intended to promote health and wellness, with the theme "Let's Go, Let's Play, Let's Move!" All of this year's activities, from dancing to cooking, are aimed at encouraging children to lead healthy and active lives. Kids will recognize some of their favorite characters, including Elmo, Charlie Brown, Curious George, Clifford the Bid Red Dog, Sponge Bob and the gang from Dora the Explorer, among others. There will also be plenty for the parents, who will spy some big name celebrities, including actress Julianne Moore, who recently starred as Sarah Palin in the movie "Game Change," and actor Forest Whitaker. Both will be reading stories to the children. Travel Channel's Andrew Zimmern and "Top Chef" stars Paul Qui, Richard Blais, Carla Hall and Bryan Voltaggio will lend their culinary expertise to the event. http://abcn.ws/HYVCa1
@Neil_Irwin : Wow, huge drop in U-6, broader measure of unemployment, down to 14.5% from 14.9%. Best news in lousy report.
@mollyesque : There really is a Republican war on caterpillars. What, you thought it was a metaphor? http://m.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/04/the-truth-about-the-republican-war-on-caterpillars/255522/
PRIMARY STATE SPEED READ
by ABC's Chris Good
-Romney Expects November Win in Pa. Appearing at his Harrisburg campaign office, Mitt Romney said he's confident he'll win Pennsylvania in the fall. "The people of Pennsylvania will elect me president because they see the need for strong, conservative leadership," Romney told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. http://bit.ly/IbqGlz
-Romney Blasts Obama Fracking Policies. Again looking ahead to the general election, and again avoiding any mention of Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney took aim at regulations in fracking-rich Wyoming County, Pa., on Thursday. "For years, this technology using fluids-fracking technology-to bring oil and gas out of the ground has been employed and innovated and has been regulated by the states," Romney said at a water-hauling company in Tunkahannock. "But now this president has eight different agencies trying to fight their way to become regulators of the gas extraction technology known as fracking. And the intent, of course, is to slow down the development of our resources." http://bit.ly/Hl8AkK
-PA Sen. Bob Casey Wants Santorum to Stay In. The Democrat who defeated Rick Santorum in 2006 now says he hopes his former rival perseveres in the GOP presidential race. "The internal fight they're having in their party is having an adverse impact on Republican prospects, so I don't want to do anything to slow that down," Sen. Bob Casey (D) told Pittsburgh's KDKA TV station. Santorum has been buoyed by Democratic votes: Whether they were liberal crossovers sowing discord in the GOP's nominating process, or "Reagan Democrats" genuinely attracted to Santorum as his campaign has suggested, self-identified Democrats sided with Santorum in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The Philadelphia Inquirer notes, however, that Pennsylvania's primary is open to Republicans only. http://bit.ly/I65RwJ
-Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have no public events today.
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