Obama highlights women at economic forum as party courts female vote

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Ticket

President Barack Obama headlined an event Friday morning focused on one demographic that is quickly becoming the key voting bloc in 2012: women.

At a White House Women and the Economy Forum, which coincided with the release of a White House report on the same topic, Obama spoke about the women who shaped his life, the impact women's inequality has on the country's economy, and the ways in which he says his administration has made women a priority.

"The conversation has been oversimplified" about women, Obama said. "Women are not some monolithic block ... an interest group. You shouldn't be treated that way."

He touted Obamacare's impact on women's health policy, noting that young people can now remain on their parents' health care plans, preventative care for women is now covered by insurance, contraception is available "at no additional charge," and companies can't deny coverage or charge more because an applicant is female.

"This is personal ... it's more than just a matter of policy," the president said of his administration's focus on women's issues. He later stated that a pay gap for women "weakens our entire economy."

The Obama administration and many other national Democrats have been publicly aligning themselves with women as polls show a widening gender gap between the president and Mitt Romney.

A USA Today/Gallup poll of registered voters in battleground states released Monday showed the president leading Romney by 18 percentage points among female registered votersa strong shift toward Obama compared to previous polls.

Just yesterday, the president made headlines for saying women should be admitted to Augusta Nationalthe all-male golf club that hosts the Masters tournament. (Romney also issued support for women's admittance when later asked to give his opinion.)

Democrats are pushing a narrative that argues the GOP has launched a "war on women," following congressional Republicans' focus on contraception and on ultrasounds prior to abortions, Romney's pledge to "get rid of Planned Parenthood," and other actions.

Republicans say the idea of a "war on women" is simply a talking point Democrats are pushing for political gain, and note that the Democratic Party has always attracted more female voters than the Republican Party.

"If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we'd have problems with caterpillars. It's a fiction," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Wednesday on Bloomberg Television's "Political Capital With Al Hunt." Democrats immediately hit back, using the comments to say Republicans are out of touch.

But many Republicans who contend that Democrats have invented this meme still express concern over a gender gap.

"You can't lose women by 18 points. You're going to get slaughtered," Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak, who shares the belief that the "war on women" is totally manufactured, told Yahoo News Friday.

Mackowiak said Romney begins the race at a disadvantage among female voters due to his party label. The gender gap seen in polls such as Gallup is about the party, not about Romney, he said.

"My hope is Republicans can find a way to combat this false narrative on the 'war on women,'" he said.

Mackowiak said that in addition to allowing the gender gap to tighten naturally as the race progresses into the general election, the Romney campaign can "better utilize" Romney's wife, Ann, to help shrink the gap by "putting her out front, humanizing Governor Romney personally."

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