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US 2012 Presidential contender Romney rebuffs female criticism

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Summary of story from Salon, August 26, 2011

Former Republican Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney appeared to reveal his unease in being challenged by women after a testy exchange with a female critic this week.

The debate occurred at a New Hampshire town hall event on Thursday.

Romney, who has something of a history of using ill-advised language in response to woman adversaries, is an initial frontrunner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

In the exchange, available to view here, Romney’s anti-government stance is challenged by an unnamed woman who presents a lengthy criticism of his policy regarding government spending.

Initially Romney listened to the woman who was challenging government expenditure, but he quickly grew frustrated, cut her off and demanded she ask a question. When the woman attempts to interject, Romney is seen repeatedly silencing her, twice derisively referring to her as “madam”.

This is not the first time Romney’s exchanges with female opponents have provoked controversy. At a 2002 gubernatorial debate in Massachusetts Romney became aggravated with his opponent, Shannon O’Brien, and resorted to calling her attacks on his waffling abortion rhetoric “unbecoming”.

Romney’s “unbecoming” line caused uproar in the race’s closing stretch. O’Brien even held a press conference the next day with the  then-Senator Hillary Clinton, and said: “I certainly think that he wouldn’t use the term ‘unbecoming’ if he were speaking about a male opponent.”

Romney had his defenders, too, and the controversy didn’t cost him the election, which he won by 7 points.

Dubious as it might seem, Romney’s wife has publicly defended his manner, saying in 1994 when Romney waged his first political campaign for a US Senate seat in Massachusetts, that “Mitt has never once raised his voice to me,” adding that she’d “dissolve into tears” if he ever did.

The US electorate are now waiting for Romney to be pitted against fellow Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann (see WVoN coverage).

The Republican base likes and trusts Bachmann far more than Romney and if he makes any condescending remarks during the inevitable debates against her, they could cause him a real headache.

In the two debates they’ve participated in so far, there’s been very little interaction between Romney and Bachmann. But that figures to change.

With Romney’s reliance on rhetorical waffle, the chances are she’ll end up going after him, and he’ll have to engage. It’ll be very interesting to hear what comes out of his mouth.

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