Obama's phone call immediately boosted the pressure on Republican presidential candidates to respond to Limbaugh's comments.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, campaigning Saturday in Ohio, said the crux of the debate was about religious liberty, not contraception. Of Obama's call to Fluke, he said "I think the president will opportunistically do anything he can."
GOP hopeful Rick Santorum told CNN on Friday that Limbaugh was being "absurd", though he added that "an entertainer can be absurd." Mitt Romney tried to steer away from the uproar when asked about the radio host's words after a campaign event in Cleveland.
"It's not the language I would have used," Romney said Friday. "But I'm focusing on the issues that I think are significant in the country today and that's why I'm here talking about jobs in Ohio."
Courting female voters is central to Obama's re-election strategy. He won the White House in part because of a significant gender gap in the general election voting. In 2008, women preferred Obama over Arizona Sen. John McCain, with 56 percent of female voters siding with Obama and 43 percent with the GOP nominee, according to exit poll data.
Obama's 2012 campaign frequently points to polling suggesting a similar trend could be shaping up in 2012. A CNN poll from January showed Obama leading Romney among women nationally, 53 percent to 45 percent. That margin only increased in hypothetical matchups with Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Just on Saturday, all-women Barnard College said Obama would speak at the school's graduation ceremony in May.
Republican strategist John Feehery said the GOP candidates have so far missed an opportunity to forcefully distance themselves from Limbaugh's comments, allowing the president to take advantage.
"He's looking like the hero here," Feehery said of Obama. "If the Republicans were smart, they would have done the same thing: given her a call and said we're sorry about this attack."
Democratic lawmakers are also seeking to capitalize on Limbaugh's comments. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a letter to supporters that Democrats had raised more than $1.6 million on the contraception issue.
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said it was inappropriate to try to raise money off the issue. But the Speaker's office also distanced itself from Limbaugh's comments, saying they, too, were inappropriate.
Associated Press writer Dan Sewell in West Chester Township, Ohio contributed to this report.
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