In a boisterous speech in Fairfax, Va., today, President Obama made a renewed push for support among female voters, reiterating his commitment to women's health care and introducing a new diagnosis for what he cast as Mitt Romney's "backtracking" and "sidestepping" on issues like contraception and abortion: "Romnesia."
Mr. Obama, speaking before a crowd of 9,000 at a "Women's Health Security" event, accused his rival of attempting to muddy his positions on issues like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and free access to contraceptive care in an effort to confuse voters.
"Now that we are 18 days out...Mr. 'severely conservative' wants you to believe he was kidding on all things he said last year," the president said. "He's forgetting what his own positions are and he's betting that you will too. We've got a name this condition that he's going through. I think it's called Romnesia!"
Ticking off a list of symptoms that suggest one "might have Romnesia," the president offered up a solution.
"I'm not a medical doctor, but I do want to go over some of those symptoms so no one else catches it," he quipped. "If you come down with a case of Romnesia and you can't seem to remember the policies that are still on your website, or the promises you made over the six years you've been running for president, here's the good news: Obamacare covers preexisting conditions! We can fix you up! We've got a cure!"
With polls showing Mr. Obama and Romney in a dead heat in Virginia, both candidates are making a hard sell to voters they think could make or break it for them in a state that could be a tipping point in the electoral race to 270. Women, particularly, are being targeted by both sides, and the Obama campaign is increasingly zeroing in on health care issues like contraception and reproductive rights, as well as the Ledbetter act, in an attempt to paint Romney as out of touch with women's issues.
"Governor Romney wants to take us to policies more suited to 1950," Mr. Obama said. "Even his own running mate said he's kind of a throwback to the '50s - that's one thing we agree on. But he may not have noticed we're in the 21st century and in the 21st century a woman deserves equal pay for equal work."
Romney has said he supports equal pay for equal work and would not repeal the Ledbetter act - which, as Mr. Obama pointed out, was the first bill he signed into law as president. But Romney will not say whether he would have signed it had it landed on his desk in 2009, and some of his advisers have suggested that he would not have.
Seizing on Romney's "binders full of women" comment from the last presidential debate, Mr. Obama reminded the crowd that the former Massachusetts governor, if elected, would be in charge of tapping new justices to the Supreme Court.
"You don't want someone who needs to ask for binders full of women - you don't want that guy," he said. "You want a president who's already appointed two unbelievable women to the Supreme Court of the United States."
Mr. Obama also renewed his attack on what he's casting as his rival's "sketchy" plan to fix the economy.
"Governor Romney's got his sales pitch. We heard it the other night in the debate, he's been running around talking about his five-point plan for the economy," he said. "He wants you to believe that somehow he'll create 12 million jobs, cut taxes by $5 trillion, even though it favors the wealthiest Americans. None of this will add to the deficit. When folks who don't actually work for Governor Romney start crunching the numbers, turns out tax plan doesn't add up, jobs plan doesn't create jobs, deficit plan doesn't reduce the deficit."
He continued: "Virginia, you've heard of the New Deal, you've heard of the Square Deal, the Fair Deal, Mitt Romney's trying to give you a sketchy deal," he said, to cheers. "And it's really just a one-point plan, not a five-point plan. One point. Folks at the very top play by a different set of rules than all of you."
Finally, he urged voters to give him a chance to "finish the job" he started four years ago.
"I believe in you. I need you to keep believing in me," he said. "I want to finish the job."
Romney addressed the president's new line of attack at an evening rally in Daytona Beach, Fla. - though he refrained from directly referencing "Romnesia."
"They've been reduced to petty attacks and silly word games," Romney said to thunderous applause from a crowd of thousands, some of whom were in town for the 'Biketoberfest' motorcycle festival. "Just watch it. The Obama campaign has become the incredible shrinking campaign."
Romney, who focused for much of his speech on the struggling economy and his plan for job growth, attacked Obama for failing to lay out plans for a second term in office. "They have absolutely no agenda for the future," he said. "No agenda for America. No agenda for a second term. It's a good thing they won't have a second term."
That brought an immediate response from Obama campaign spokesman Danny Kanner, who said that "just part" of Obama's second-term agenda is to "double our exports, create a million manufacturing jobs, cut oil imports in half, recruit 100,000 math and science teachers, train 2 million workers at community colleges, and reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion."