Republicans ramp up 'war on women' debate

Republicans ramp up 'war on women' debate

Mitt Romney’s campaign struck back Wednesday against the White House in a bid to close the gender gap among voters, insisting President Barack Obama — not Republicans — is waging a “war on women.”

Three years of Obama’s economic policies have “turned the clock back 20 years on American women,” Romney’s policy director Lanhee Chen told reporters as he sought to counter an Obama narrative that of the two candidates in November’s election, he will be the main protector of women’s rights.

Men lost far more jobs than women in the opening year of the recession, which began in late 2007, while women lost more jobs near the end of the recession, when state and local government cutbacks led to huge teacher layoffs, according to Labor Department figures.

Democrats for weeks have portrayed Romney and fellow Republicans as being not just out of touch with women voters, but neglecting women’s rights by favoring conservative policies on abortion, contraception and other social concerns.

Romney himself fueled the debate on Tuesday, making a pitch for women’s votes just minutes after his chief rival Rick Santorum dropped out of the Republican nomination race.

But neither Chen nor Romney’s economic policy advisor Kevin Hassett could point to specific Romney policies that would directly help more women enter the workforce.

And when asked directly whether Romney supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which promotes equal pay for equal work, Hassett told the conference call: “We’ll get back to you on that.”

That prompted Ledbetter herself to issue a retort — through the Obama campaign — saying she was “shocked and disappointed to hear that Mitt Romney is not willing to stand up for women and their families.”