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Should spouses be off-limits on the campaign trail?

Mitt Romney and his wife Ann wave as they leave a rally in Schaumburg, Ill., after winning the Illinois Primary on March 20, 2012.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

Say what you will about a political rival, just leave their spouses out of it.

That's the message an American pundit received after taking a jab at Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's wife, Ann.

"His wife has actually never worked a day in her life," Democratic Party strategist Hilary Rosen told CNN's Anderson Cooper, according to the Los Angeles Times. "She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and why do we worry about their future."

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Granted, Rosen was being questioned about whether Ann Romney understands women's economic struggles, at a time when her husband, the presumed GOP presidential nominee, has been battling with President Barack Obama's administration over who's to blame for the economic gender gap.

However, Rosen's comments have unleashed a firestorm, with critics saying she crossed the line.

Romney herself has weighed in via Twitter, responding with the tweet: "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work."

Even members of President Obama's camp expressed disapproval. "Families must be off limits on campaigns, and i personally believe stay at home moms work harder than most of us do," Mr. Obama's deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, said on Twitter.

The furor raises some curious questions. Politicians of all stripes tend to throw the occasional insult at the spouses of elected leaders. Consider, for instance, all the flak Michelle Obama has received, ranging from criticism about her expensive tastes to her anti-obesity campaign. Does a wife become fair game once she becomes First Lady?

Or perhaps it isn't so much the idea of insulting a spouse during a campaign that's offside, but insulting voters. As The Washington Post points out, condemnation of Rosen from Obama's team shows how damaging it can be to appear dismissive of stay-at-home moms.

The newspaper recalls Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's wife Teresa was forced to apologize in 2004 when she questioned whether First Lady Laura Bush ever had a "real job."

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What do you think? Should spouses be left out of the political arena during campaigns?

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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