Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are pulling out all the stops to appeal to women voters, who could be the key to victory in the presidential election.
Republican strategists say Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, is focusing on married and college-educated women. Both groups have been reliable Republican voters in the past, and GOP advisers say they will be pivotal in the eight swing states where the election is likely to be decided, including Colorado, Florida, Iowa, and Ohio.
Romney's pitch is that Obama has let women down by failing to improve the economy or sufficiently reduce unemployment, which hovered at 8.3 per cent last month. He also argues that Obama has not fulfilled his promises to bring hope and change to Washington, a message with particular appeal to women in 2008.
This week, he also began to emphasize welfare as an issue even though the debate over that topic has been dormant for a long time. But Romney seized upon the idea that the Obama administration is moving to send welfare recipients government payments without requiring them to work for their benefits. This requirement was a key provisiion of the landmark 1996 welfare law, which has proven very popular. Obama says he is only trying to make the system more flexible and doesn't want to eliminate the work requirement.
The GOP theory is that white voters, including women, will oppose handouts to people who don't work, especially at a time when so many Americans of all races are enduring economic hardship. Campaigning in Iowa, Romney said Obama wants to create a "nation of government dependency."
President Obama is aiming to motivate turnout among single women, a cohort where he enjoys a huge lead over Romney. The challenge, however, is to energize single women to actually cast their ballots, and that will be Job One for Team Obama in the dwindling weeks before election day in November.
Democratic pollster Geoff Garin tells me that another key demographic will be white women who lack a college education, which could be the most important swing vote in this election.
Obama's strategy was clear when he campaigned in Colorado on Wednesday. He said Romney would take women's health rights "back to the 1950's," and defended his signature health-care law, which he proudly called "Obamacare," as particularly valuable for women. He said it's important for government to allow "a women to make her own health-care decisions...He [Romney] says he's the candidate of freedom. But freedom is about making decisions about your own health care and when you need it."
The president also noted that he has named two women to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.