Campaigning in the battleground state of Colorado, President Barack Obama warned women, who are vital to his re-election effort, that Mitt Romney would roll back their rights and had embraced "policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century."
Obama got a vocal assist from Sandra Fluke, who as a Georgetown law student advocated health insurance coverage of birth control—only to be branded a "slut" by conservative talk show icon Rush Limbaugh.
Fluke said she was "heartened" that "so many Americans … reached out to me and supported me, no matter what anyone's politics were." And she highlighted Obama's strong public support—before ripping into Romney.
"Mr. Romney could only say that those weren't the words he would have chosen," she said, drawing boos from the crowd. "Well, Mr. Romney, you're not going to be the candidate we choose. Because if Mr. Romney can't stand up to extreme voices in his own party, then we know he'll never stand up for us."
Fluke introduced Obama, who wasted no time in hammering home what he described as the high stakes of the 2012 campaign.
"The direction you choose when you walk into that voting booth three months from now will have a direct impact—not just on your lives but on the lives of your children and the lives of your grandchildren," he told a cheering crowd of supporters in Denver. "That's true for everybody, but it's especially true for the women in this country."
National polls have found a persistent gender gap: Obama does far better than Romney among women (notably single women), while Romney typically does better with men.
In Colorado, which both campaigns are targeting, Obama edges Romney 51 percent to 43 percent among women, according to a new Quinnipiac/NYT/CBS poll. Romney is up 56-39 among men, that survey found.
Obama highlighted his efforts to battle workplace sex discrimination, his appointment of two women to the Supreme Court, and the benefits women—and families—stand to get from Obamacare.
And the president trained heavy fire on Romney for vowing to "kill it dead"—noting that would roll back politically popular measures like a ban on insurance companies refusing coverage because of pre-existing conditions and allowing parents to keep kids up to 26 years old on their insurance.
And "when it comes to a woman's right to make her own health care choices, they want to take us back to the policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century," Obama said of Romney and Republicans, an unmistakable reference to access to abortion.
The president also emphasized that a Republican president "could tip the balance of the [supreme] court in a way that turns back the clock for women and families for decades to come."
"The choice between going backward and moving forward has never been so clear," he said.
Ahead of Obama's remarks, Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg told Yahoo News that "President Obama's four years in office haven't been kind to women."
"Hundreds of thousands of women have lost their jobs, poverty among women is highest in nearly two decades, and half of recent graduates can't find a good job," Henneberg said. "Middle-class families have struggled in the Obama economy, and Mitt Romney has a plan to strengthen the middle class and get our country back on the right track."