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Romney campaign stumbles on equal pay

<p>Following up on an earlier item, Mitt Romney and his campaign are so excited about accusing President Obama of waging a "war on women&amp

Following up on an earlier item, Mitt Romney and his campaign are so excited about accusing President Obama of waging a "war on women" that Team Romney organized a conference call this morning to push the message. Romney aides probably should have thought this through first.

"His polices have been really a war on women," Romney told FOX News Wednesday. "Over 92 percent of the jobs lost under this president were lost by women," a statistic his campaign has cited frequently this week.But no one from his campaign, including economic and policy advisers, could offer a clear explanation of this disparity Romney has trumpeted on a press call Wednesday.... Nor could Romney's advisers say whether Romney would do anything to address it.

Making matters worse, the Huffington Post's Sam Stein asked whether Romney supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the campaign aides, after a painfully long delay, had no idea.

These weren't trick questions. This was, after all, a call about women's issues. It was organized by the Romney campaign, so it's not as if these staffers could say they were caught off guard by extraneous and unrelated issues. Presumably, these folks prepared for their own telephone press conference.

Romney has cited a misleading statistic, and his aides couldn't defend it. Romney has said current policies are keeping women from getting more jobs, and given three separate chances to say something coherent, his aides couldn't explain what would change if the former governor is elected president. Were they not expecting these kinds of question?

To borrow a Casey Stengel line, can't anybody here play this game?

As for the Fair Pay law, Lilly Ledbetter released a statement shortly after the Romney campaign wouldn't state the former governor's position on this.

"I was shocked and disappointed to hear that Mitt Romney is not willing to stand up for women and their families. If he is truly concerned about women in this economy, he wouldn't have to take time to 'think' about whether he supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This Act not only ensures women have the tools to get equal pay for equal work, but it means their families will be better served also. Women earn just 77 cents to every dollar that men earn for the same job, which is why President Obama took decisive action and made this the first bill that he signed when he took office. Women should have the ability to take their bosses to court to get the same pay as their male coworkers."Anyone who wants to be President of the United States shouldn't have to think about whether they support pursuing every possible avenue to ensuring women get the same pay for the same work as men. Our economic security depends on it."

Eventually, after Ledbetter's statement was released to the media, the Republican campaign said a Romney administration wouldn't try to repeal the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, but wouldn't say whether Romney supported the law itself. (Remember, the vast majority of congressional Republicans opposed the law when it passed in 2009.)

As a result of all of this dissembling, the larger story this morning is that the Romney campaign stumbled on its own initiative, allowing Obama's team to go on the offensive when Romney expected to put them on the defensive.

Welcome to the general election, Mitt. I think you'll find it's a little more difficult than going up against Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.