Mitt Romney and his campaign have been on the offensive for days, attacking Democrats and President Obama for not respecting motherhood as work. Sparked by comments made by Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen suggesting Ann Romney might not be the most qualified expert on women’s economic woes because she’s “never worked a day in her life,” the Romney campaign seized on the opening to accuse the Democrats of waging a “war on moms.”
But the attacks don’t gibe with comments Romney made just three months ago on the campaign trail. In January, Romney touted his proposal as governor of Massachusetts to raise the amount of work required of parents on welfare so that they could “have the dignity of work.”
The comment was uncovered and aired on MSNBC’s “Up w/Chris Hayes,” Sunday morning.
“I wanted to increase the work requirement,” said Romney in New Hampshire. “I said, for instance, that even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, ‘Well that’s heartless.’ And I said, ‘No, no, I’m willing to spend more giving day care to allow those parents to go back to work. It’ll cost the state more providing that daycare, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.’”
But it was this very idea, that raising children is not “work,” that started the Romney campaign’s “war on moms” attack against Democrats this week. Immediately following Rosen’s comments on CNN Wednesday night, the Romney campaign kicked into high gear attacking Rosen and defending motherhood as “hard work.”
Romney campaign spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom took to Twitter to defend “hard-working moms”:
Obama adviser Hilary Rosen goes on #CNN to debut their new “kill Ann” strategy, and in the process insults hard-working moms.— Eric Fehrnstrom (@EricFehrn) April 12, 2012
And Ann Romney herself put out her first tweet in response to Rosen:
I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.— Ann Romney (@AnnDRomney) April 12, 2012
As Rosen later explained, her comments were not about attacking the work of raising children but to point out that most mothers don’t have the luxury of choosing between working and being a stay-at-home mom — a point Mitt Romney made in his 1994 Senate campaign as well. Ann Romney shot back that her “career choice was to be a mother” and that her husband “respects women that make those different choices.”
But according to Romney’s own welfare proposals as governor, being a stay at home mother does not qualify as work. In fact, the federal government does not consider it work either.
The Romney campaign did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
Watch Romney discuss welfare reform on January 4, 2012:
Update, 1:20pm: The Romney campaign responded to TPM with the following statement from spokesperson Andrea Saul: “Moving welfare recipients into work was one of the basic principles of the bipartisan welfare reform legislation that President Clinton signed into law. The sad fact is that under President Obama the poverty rate among women rose to 14.5% in 2011, the highest rate in 17 years. The Obama administration’s economic policies have been devastating to women and families.”
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.