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Dem strategist apologizes for attacking Ann Romney, as Obama calls remarks 'ill-advised'

Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Hilary Rosen apologized Thursday to Ann Romney, wife of presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, for criticizing her choice to be a stay-at-home mother -- but not before sparking a political firestorm with her remarks.

"I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended," Rosen said in statement.

Rosen's comments drew condemnation from all corners, including from President Obama, who called the remarks "ill-advised."

"There is no tougher job than being a mom," Obama told a TV station in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "And when I think about what (my wife) has had to do, when I think about my own mom, a single mother raising me and my sister, that's work.

"So, anybody who would argue otherwise I think probably needs to re-think their statement. More broadly, I don't have a lot of patience for commentary about the spouses of political candidates."

Rosen ignited the firestorm Wednesday evening on CNN by saying Ann Romney was not qualified to help her husband on the campaign trail address women's issues.

“Guess what, (Romney’s) wife has actually never worked a day in her life," Rosen said.

Rosen returned to the CNN airways twice Thursday, finally apologizing on camera.

She said on CNN that she "should not have chosen words that seemed to attack Romney's choice in life" and that she hoped Romney understands she "didn't mean it personally."

Rosen, who has twins with ex-partner Elizabeth Birch, said she was trying to talk about economic issues, then added, "This is going to be an ugly campaign season."

The back-and-forth is part of a larger debate leading up to the general election, with Democrats trying to secure the female vote by attempting to portray Republicans as being out of touch with women's issues and needs.

In her written apology, Rosen also said: “Let’s put the faux ‘war against stay at home moms’ to rest once and for all. As a mom I know that raising children is the hardest job there is. As a pundit, I know my words on CNN last night were poorly chosen."

Minutes earlier, the White House ducked a head-on rebuke of Rosen.

Spokesman Jay Carney instead dove into recitation of  campaign talking points and numbers including those on how the private sector, under the president, has created jobs for 25 straights months and how a proposed GOP-backed budget would cut services to single-mothers, women teachers and others.

"I could go on," Carney said during the daily White House press briefing.

He also attempted to distance the president from Rosen by saying he could not confirm reporting that she has made 35 visits to the Obama White House and that he could not characterize how close she is to the administration.

"I don't know how to assess her overall relationship with the White House," he said.

The strategy was a departure from that of top Obama campaign officials who scrambled earlier in the day to distance the re-election effort from Rosen's remarks.

Ann Romney, a 64-year-old mother of five and grandmother of 16, said Thursday morning on Fox News Channel that her career choice was to be a mother and that Rosen should have been in her house when "those boys caused so much trouble."

However, she struck a far more serious tone when asked about Rosen's comment about her husband not understanding women and their needs.

"Now that bothers me," Romney said, pointing out her husband has surrounded himself with top female advisers at least since his days as Massachusetts governor.

"Hilary needs to know this," she also said. Women on the campaign trail are "talking about jobs and the legacy of debt they're leaving their children."

Rosen returned to CNN about 30 minutes before Romney appeared on Fox News to say, "They're attacking me. That's fine, but it does not erase (Mitt Romney's) woeful record" on women's issues.

She also blamed Republicans for focusing on her comments, rather than on the issue of whether Romney understands the concerns of working women.

"This really isn’t about stay-at-home vs. working moms," she said. "I have kids. It's the hardest job I've ever had. Romney has brought his wife into conversation. ... It's strategic to attack me rather than talk about the issues."

“I could not disagree with Hilary Rosen any more strongly. Her comments were wrong and family should be off limits. She should apologize,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a tweet.

Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod tweeted: “Also Disappointed in Hilary Rosen’s comments about Ann Romney. They were inappropriate and offensive.”

Rosen continued to tweet herself, adding, “I’ve nothing against @AnnRomney. I just don’t want Mitt using her as an expert on women struggling $ to support their family. She isn’t.”

And later: “@AnnDRomney Please know, I admire you. But your husband shouldn’t say you are his expert on women and the economy,” Rosen tweeted.

Rosen was in 2004 the interim director for the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender lobbyist organization. Birch was the executive director of the group for eight years

There were roughly 5 million stay-at-home moms in 2010, roughly the same as the 5.1 million in 2009, and 5.3 million in 2008. 

In 2010, 23 percent of married-couple family groups with children under 15 had a stay-at-home mother, up from 21 percent in 2000. In 2007, before the recession, stay-at-home mothers were found in 24 percent of married-couple family groups with children under 15, according to the America's Families and Living Arrangements.