Two things happened yesterday that don’t seem unrelated. First, there was the release of a new poll in Ohio that showed Mitt Romney pulling closer to President Obama but still trailing by four points – thanks to a massive 36-point gender gap. Then came Romney’s statement to an editorial board that “there’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.”
This is an extension of the strategy Romney employed at last week’s debate, simply playing dumb when confronted with the aspects of conservative ideology that are difficult to market outside the Republican Party base. In this case, there is a clear urgency for Romney in creating distance between himself and the right’s recent fixation on reproductive issues: A recent Bloomberg poll of swing voters in Ohio and Virginia found Romney leading among married mothers by a few points in each state – with the potential to open much bigger leads if he can work around the concerns they have about his views on women’s issues.
Romney, the Bloomberg poll showed, enjoys a clear advantage among these women on the economy, but has been hindered by, among other things, his vow to de-fund Planned Parenthood, his opposition to Obama’s decision to mandate insurance coverage of birth control, and his anti-abortion position. The new Ohio numbers, from a CNN poll released yesterday, speak to Romney’s challenge. Among men in the Buckeye State, he’s now clobbering Obama, 56 to 42 percent. But with women, Obama is winning by a 60-38 percent margin. That translates into a 51-47 percent overall lead for the president, but if Romney can erode Obama’s advantage with women even a little, he can make up that ground.
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