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First Thoughts: Romney struggles to close the gender gap, but catches break

Romney struggles to close the gender gap, but catches a break… And the campaign proves it can capitalize on a mistake… Biden to blast the “Romney Rule”… Obama to once again talk about the Buffett Rule… Dems seize on the sixth anniversary of Romney’s health-care law… Newt rails against FOX, George Will…. And VP tryout time? Portman stumps for Romney in Pennsylvania.

*** Romney struggles to close the gender gap: Yesterday was Mitt Romney’s first full day as a general-election candidate, and he and his campaign made two things crystal clear: 1) They know they have a problem with women and struggled early on to fix it, and 2) their campaign machinery proved more than adept in capitalizing on an unforced error.  Before last night, Team Romney looked borderline desperate to improve its sagging poll numbers with female voters. First, Romney held an event in Connecticut where he was surrounded by women, which essentially screamed: “I have a problem with female voters.” Second, Romney made the dubious charge that women have accounted for 92% of the job losses since Obama took office. (Does anyone believe, with a straight face, that nine in 10 job losses over the past three years have been women workers?) Third, the Romney campaign held a conference call with reporters, but was unable to answer a question whether Romney supports the Lilly Ledbetter Act, legislation Obama signed into law guaranteeing that women have the ability to get equal pay for equal work. So, early on, they looked desperate, they were making a dubious charge, and couldn’t answer a reporter’s question. 

Steven Senne / AP

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks April 11, 2012, in Hartford, Conn.

*** But then he catches a break: Then the Romney campaign got a gift. Last night on CNN, Democratic commentator Hilary Rosen -- who has no formal role with the Obama campaign -- said that Ann Romney has never worked a day in her life. The Romney campaign and GOP establishment went into overdrive on Twitter. “Hilary Rosen attacks Ann Romney, an MS & breast cancer survivor & mom of 5, for ‘never working a day in her life,’” said Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho. Ann Romney even started a Twitter account and said this: “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.” And she’s now set to appear on FOX during the 10:00 am ET hour, NBC’s Garrett Haake notes. The Obama camp quickly distanced itself from Rosen’s remarks. Said David Axelrod over Twitter: “Disappointed in Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney. They were inappropriate and offensive.” Of course, we’re now waiting for some Republican to make a comment about President Obama’s race, or for a Democrat to say something unflattering about Romney’s Mormon faith. Folks, it’s going to be a LONG year…)

Mitt Romney kicked off his general election campaign by aggressively responding to what advisers believe is one of his biggest vulnerabilities – a double-digit gender gap. NBC's Mark Murray reports.

*** And his campaign proves it can capitalize on a mistake: But all of this activity yesterday revealed that the Romney campaign can take a small opening and capitalize -- almost as quickly as Democrats capitalized on the “Etch A Sketch” comment. But that the Romney campaign threw its full weight behind a comment from a Democrat not affiliated with the Obama campaign, and that it decided to make Ann Romney available to talk about it, also reveals the campaign knows it has a BIG deficit with female voters right now.

*** Biden to blast the “Romney Rule”: Meanwhile, Team Obama is continuing to charge ahead on the Buffett Rule -- and hit Romney in the process. Today, at 12:15 pm ET from New Hampshire, Vice President Biden will say, according to excerpts: “The Buffett Rule says that multi-millionaires should pay at least the same percentage of their income in taxes as middle-class families do. The Romney Rule says the very wealthy should keep the tax cuts and loopholes they have, and get an additional, new tax cut every year that is worth more than what the average middle class family makes in an entire year.” The Romney campaign this morning is holding a conference call to pre-but Biden, and former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu (R) issued this statement yesterday: “I don’t agree with much of what Joe Biden says, but I completely agreed with him in 2007 when he said Barack Obama wasn’t ready to be president. That was true then, and is still true today.” As we noted yesterday, this speech by Biden and the decision to call the "Buffett rule" the "Romney Rule" proves this was a political proposal, not a serious policy one.

*** Obama to once again talk about the Buffett Rule: President Obama is also going to keep talking about the Buffett Rule. Beginning at 2:40 pm ET, he will conduct a round of interviews with affiliate TV stations from Columbus, OH, Cedar Rapids, IA, St. Louis, MO, and Reno, NV.

*** Dems seize on the 6th anniversary of “Romneycare”: And Democrats aren’t just using the Buffett Rule to go after Romney; they’re also making hay on today’s sixth anniversary of Romney signing Massachusetts’ health-care reform (and individual mandate!) into law. The New York Times: “[O]n Wednesday, Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, pointedly said his predecessor should be proud of the law, which has been a hot potato for Mr. Romney on the Republican presidential campaign trail. ‘I know, or at least I sense, that he’s personally proud of it,’ Mr. Patrick said, pointing out that Mr. Romney’s official portrait in the State House depicts him sitting at a desk with a document stamped with a medical symbol, meant to represent the health care legislation.” While we expect Romney to stay silent on this anniversary, it’s worth reminding everyone that the Obama White House was a bit silent on the second anniversary of its health-care law.

*** Newt rails against FOX, George Will: Here’s the problem for Newt Gingrich remaining in the presidential race: Every story that now comes out isn’t a good one. Yesterday, we learned about his bounced check. Now comes him railing against FOX and George Will. “I think Fox has been for Romney all the way through,” Gingrich said, per RealClearPolitics. Gingrich also said Gingrich said that George Will was among the conservative media figures who harbored “personal jealousy” against him.

*** On the GOP trail, per NBC’s Adam Perez: Romney is down in Boston, MA…Gingrich campaigns in Delaware…Paul host a town hall event in the Lone Star State

*** Veepstakes watch: Ohio Sen. Rob Portman campaigns for Romney in Greensburg, PA at 6:45 pm ET (looks like some VP tryout time!)…

Countdown to the CT, DE, NY, PA, and RI primaries: 12 days
Countdown to Election Day: 208 days

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