Twitter exploded Wednesday night after a Democratic lobbyist, Hilary Rosen, questioned a stay-at-home mother Ann Romney’s credentials to talk about the economy. Thousand of tweets were sent in defense of and in outrage over Rosen’s remark on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, and the Obama campaign was forced to quickly repudiate the words of an ally in a series of tweets from its own officials.
Beyond the debate over women in the workplace or whether it is appropriate to use spouses in political attacks, last night’s firestorm revealed the fast, intense, and primarily social media turf on which the 2012 election will be fought.
Romney fueled the controversy by starting her own Twitter account:
After Rosen’s comments on CNN the Republican pushback was intense, as Democrats struggled to find a way out of the mess. Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, and senior adviser David Axelrod quickly repudiated Rosen’s remarks. They were aiming to pour accelerant on the fire so it would burn hotter but faster and burn out sooner.
The conflagration was the largest-scale episode in a running series of battles among insiders and activists that populate the Twitter-verse at all hours, and stays there. The clearest example was the Twitter flare-up between Axelrod and Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom in January, which was entertaining, but never left the Internet.
The Romney campaign had a different idea, trying to tie Rosen to the Obama White House, noting she had visited at least 35 times for strategy and messaging briefings. They also made Mrs. Romney available to Fox News for an interview this morning, allowing the one-time Twitter controversy to spill out onto cable news, and tomorrow, inevitably, onto the old web and newsprint across the country.
By that time the rest of us on Twitter will be onto the next mini-crisis.
“The Twitter election…” one Republican operative mused to BuzzFeed Thursday morning, “Seven months of this is going to suck.”