Romney may have dealt himself trouble with his inconsistent position over the years on abortion and a comment earlier this year that sounded as if he wanted to "get rid of" Planned Parenthood. His campaign later clarified that he was referring to deleting federal funding for the organization, not eliminating it outright.
Then there's the way Romney handles questions about his message to women; conservative Republican women say he has to work do to on that front.
Virtually every time, Romney answers by invoking his wife of 43 years, and reports what's she's told him about what women want.
"She reports to me regularly that the issue women care about most is the economy, and getting good jobs for their kids and for themselves," Romney told the Newspaper Association of America on Wednesday. "They are concerned about gasoline prices, the cost of getting to and from work, taking their kids to school or to practice and so forth after school. That is what women care about in this country, and my vision is to get America working again."
A few days earlier in Middleton, he was asked how he'd counter the Democrats' narrative on contraception. He prefaced his answer this way: "I wish Ann were here ... to answer that question in particular."
Some Republican activists say they are eager to see Romney show a genuine interest in and understanding of how women have experienced the recession, while also using his wife to rally female voters.
She did just that last month on Super Tuesday, saying: "Do you know what women care about? Women care about jobs. They're angry, and they're furious about the entitlement debt that we're leaving for our children."
Romney's efforts are being buffeted by those of the Republican National Committee.
It has an extensive operation of surrogates and specific talking points that connect the party's commitment to lower taxes and smaller government to the "kitchen table decisions" women make every day: fitting rising gas and college prices into family budgets, for example, or managing health care costs under Obama's new law, or keeping government regulations from whittling the profit margins of the small businesses millions of them own.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chairwoman of Romney's campaign in Washington state and a leader of the RNC's messaging to women, notes that women split between the parties in the 2010 congressional elections and helped drive her party into the House majority.
Democrats can't let that stand, she has argued, so they're waging a "war against reality."
Some Republican women say Romney's got time to figure out how and whether to make an explicit pitch to women voters.
RNC committeewoman Heidi Smith said he's already doing that with his pitch on the economy. And, she suggested, he should stick with what he knows.
Said Smith, who represents Nevada: "I don't care if he never says a thing about, quote, women's issues. If he doesn't get the economy back together it doesn't make a difference."
Associated Press Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.
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