'This Week' Roundtable: Debate Over Women Boosts Ann Romney's Role

VIDEO: Cokie Roberts, Melody Barnes, Paul Gigot, Kevin Madden,and Katrina vanden Heuvel


As Mitt Romney's campaign seeks to close the gender gap with President Obama, the increased presence of Ann Romney could boost his support among women, Romney campaign advisor Kevin Madden and ABC News' Cokie Roberts said Sunday on "This Week."

"Mommy wars are always a big issue, and it makes me crazy, frankly. I mean, it is true that women are working wherever they are, and the fact that they denigrate each other's choices is absurd," Roberts said of the debate this week spurred by Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen's comments that Ann Romney had "never worked a day in her life."

"But the other thing that happened is it got Ann Romney out there front and center, and that's the best thing that could possibly happen to Mitt Romney," Roberts said, citing President Obama's struggle to win over married women at the polls, while dominating among single women voters.

"People see Barack Obama as much more likable than they see Mitt Romney, but Ann Romney is really likable," Roberts added. "And she's been all over the place this week, and people have gotten to know her, and that is a big plus for him."

Romney campaign advisor Kevin Madden called Ann Romney "the best surrogate that Governor Romney can have," and said that the campaign seized on the debate over women this week, even though it was "a bit of a sideshow."

"The central issue here, related to how you persuade women voters, to support Governor Romney, is still the economy," Madden said. "It's still about the economic anxiety they have. It's still about the pressures that they have on rising costs in households. And that's where I think Governor Romney is going to continue to focus."

"Women are hurting in this economy," Madden added. "They're hurting on the jobs side, and they're hurting on the rising costs at home."

Former Obama domestic policy advisor Melody Barnes disputed figures raised by the Romney campaign that 92.3 percent of the jobs lost under President Obama were held by women.

"About 1.3 million jobs had been lost that were jobs occupied by women when we walked into the White House," Barnes said. "At the same time, the president has created about 1.2 million that are occupied by women now."

Editor and publisher of The Nation magazine Katrina vanden Heuvel called the entire debate this week a "distraction."

"Of course stay-at-home mothers play an important role," vanden Heuvel said. "The issues we should be talking about are equal pay, combating rising health care costs for families, and sick payday leave for women. And these are issues that the Republicans oppose."

Madden argued that Mitt Romney's policy proposals to spur private sector growth will help women the most - and help him win over women voters.

"If you're looking at how we spur job creation and we spur economic growth that's going to help everybody, and particularly women, you have to look at how the private sector has a role in that," Madden said. "That's the most important way to help get the economic growth that we need to help working women, women who are single parents. That's the most important thing."

Barnes said the Obama administration's efforts to push economic growth have been blocked by a Republican Congress.

"What I saw, sitting in the White House, is that one policy initiative after another to try and spur job growth, to try and help the states, on jobs often and frequently occupied by women, was pushed back on by Congress," Barnes said.

But Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot questioned that, saying the Obama administration had opportunity to spur job growth for women before Republicans won the House.

"The first two years that had open field, vast Democratic majorities, you got what you wanted. You got a huge expansion of federal government," Gigot said. "How is that working out for the economic security of women? It hasn't. Real incomes are down."

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