Tags: obama | women | voters | agressive

Obama Takes Risk With Women Voters

Wednesday, 17 Oct 2012 02:07 PM

By David A. Patten

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The Obama campaign’s decision to have the president go sharply negative and attack former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, as reflected in a startlingly confrontational debate Tuesday night, is a high-risk strategy that risks alienating the very women and swing-voters that polls show he needs most in order to win re-election.

On Tuesday, Obama repeatedly resorted to wedge issues – slamming Romney the availability of contraception and his opposition to funding Planned Parenthood, the nation’s No. 1 provider of abortions – in a bid to build a firewall to protect his presumed advantage among women voters.
Obama said Romney “feels more comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the health-care choices that women are making.”

Romney’s retort: “Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives … the president’s statement of my policy is wrong.”

Urgent Poll: Obama or Romney? Who Won the Second Debate?

Romney presented himself as a vigorous defender of women’s rights, but in a different vein. Contrasted to Obama’s foray into social issues, Romney focused his response on employment opportunities for women, and on workplace flexibility. He said 3.5 million women have been added to the poverty rolls since Obama took office, while Planned Parenthood continues to get government subsidies.

When Romney spoke about how he pushed for flexible work schedules for women during his term as governor of Massachusetts, CNN’s running meter showing the reaction of undecided women voters trended strongly positive, indicating he was making strides with those voters. But the president scored points when talking about his family.

“I’ve got two daughters and I want to make sure that they have the same opportunities as anybody’s sons have,” he said.

The sharp exchange was another indication that women may hold the key to the 2012 election. On Tuesday, a Gallup survey that showed Obama and Romney deadlocked at 48 percent to 48 percent among women voters in battleground states. Most analysts believe that if Romney erased the so-called gender gap, or even narrows it substantially, Obama is very likely to become a one-term president.

That may explain the Obama campaign’s immediate pushback. Obama pollster Joel Benenson called the poll “an extreme outlier, defying the trends seen in every other battleground and national poll.”

That set the stage for the rumble over women’s issues in Tuesday’s debates. But some analysts believe the Obama campaign is pursuing a high-risk strategy in pressing the attacks, because women voters tend to place a greater emphasis on civility in political dialog, they say.

At times Tuesday the two candidates appeared to circle one another and repeatedly talked over each other. President Obama set the confrontational tone from the outset, repeatedly implying Romney was lying by stating over again: “That’s just not true.”

GOP strategist, author, and former U.S. Treasurer Bay Buchanan is among those who say Obama may be undermining his own campaign by pursuing a bare-knuckled political strategy. After the vice presidential debate, she blasted Vice President Joe Biden’s demeanor as “bufoonish,” and warned it would turn off women.

Buchanan told Newsmax: “I’ve got to tell you, the one thing that women are very sensitive about is for somebody to talk over you and laugh and interrupt and not to respect the fact that you have an opinion and it’s a legitimate one and that the audience has a right to hear it.”

Urgent Poll: Obama or Romney? Who Won the Second Debate?

As early as July, Buchanan was warning that unless President Obama elevated the political dialog, he would see his advantage among women voters begin to erode.

“I think women expected Barack Obama to act a little differently, a little more civilly and not to just throw out accusations,” she told Newsmax then. “I think that very well is beginning to backfire. We are seeing the women’s gap begin to close here.”

The clear consensus is that Obama’s performance improved from the first debate. But while no doubt re-energized the Democratic base, it remains to be seen whether he’s stopped the bleeding politically. In short, his approach Tuesday appeared a high-stakes gamble in the face of sliding poll numbers, one that some GOP analysts see as a possible sign of desperation.

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