Dems hit RNC chief for comparing GOP gender gap to a ‘war on caterpillars’

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus triggered a debate on caterpillars Thursday when dismissing the GOP’s so-called “women problem” as a “fiction.”

“If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and mainstream media outlets talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we have problems with caterpillars,” Priebus told Bloomberg TV in an episode of "Political Capital with Al Hunt" airing Thursday night.

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He was responding to concern that Republicans might be falling behind Democrats among female voters, due in part to recent polling numbers that show Mitt Romney trailing Obama by 18 points among women in 12 swing states, according to Gallup.

The Democratic National Committee and President Obama’s campaign pounced on Priebus’s comment, using it as further evidence that the GOP has a “war on women” demonstrated most recently through their opposition to the White House’s contraception mandate.

The comment “shows how little regard leading Republicans, including Mitt Romney, have for women’s health,” said Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter in a statement. “Women are already abandoning the Republican Party in droves because of their antiquated positions on women’s health and out-of-touch policies on the middle class. Reince Priebus’ comments today only reinforce why women simply cannot trust Mitt Romney or other leading Republicans to stand up for them.”

Cutter also demanded a response from Romney’s presidential campaign regarding the comment.

The head of the DNC also focused her response on Romney, the GOP presidential frontrunner.

"To have the head of the GOP say these attacks on women are as fictional as a ‘war on caterpillars’ is callous and dismissive of what matters to women and completely out of touch," Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) said in a statement. "Chairman Priebus should know better and no amount of dismissive statements can change the facts: Mitt Romney and the Republican Party aren’t standing up for the issues important to women and their families, and women know it.”

She tweeted Thursday: “Analogies not workin' for Reince.”

--This post was updated at 2:02 p.m.