Romney camp focuses on winning over women

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, greets women in the audience during a campaign event, in Hartford, Conn., Wednesday, April 11, 2012. AP Photo/Steven Senne

AP Photo/Steven Senne

In the wake of polling showing he trails President Obama by double-digits among female voters, Mitt Romney is trying to repair any possible damage the Republican primary may have done to his standing with women -- and is pushing back on Mr. Obama's argument that Republicans are waging a "war on women."

Romney met with a group of women business leaders in Hartford, Connecticut on Wednesday, where, for the second day in a row, he attempted to paint President Obama as being bad for women and their checkbooks.

"The real war on women is being waged by the president's failed economic policies," Romney told the group.

The Romney campaign also circulated a series of statements by prominent women amplifying its message. Among them was one from California Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack, who wrote: "Barack Obama talks a good game on women in the economy, but the facts don't back him up. Women in the Obama economy are facing hardships of historical proportions."

In another statement, former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey said, "It is clear that women have become the biggest casualty of the Obama economy." Added Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers: "For more than three years, President Obama's disastrous economic policies have wreaked havoc on women in the workplace with record levels of unemployment and the highest poverty rate in nearly two decades."

Appearing on Fox News Wednesday, Romney said Mr. Obama has "lost 800,000 jobs during his presidency and by the way, do you know what percentage of those jobs lost were lost by women? Over 92 percent of the jobs lost under this president were lost by women. His policies have been really a war on women. And so he wants to divert from that and see if we can't find someone to attack, some scapegoat." (Fact-checking site Politifact rated the 92 percent claim "mostly false," a rating that has the Romney campaign demanding a correction.)

Romney began appealing more directly to women last week with remarks about the role of his wife in bringing women's issues to his attention.

"My wife has the occasion, as you know, to campaign on her own...She reports to me regularly that the issues women care about most is the economy and getting good jobs for their kids and for themselves. They're concerned about gasoline prices," Romney said. "That's what women care about in this country and my vision is to get America working again, short term and long term."

In his victory speech in Wisconsin, Romney highlighted single moms, saying they are suffering in this economy. He repeated a similar sentiment the same day on the Sean Hannity radio show.

"This is a President whose policies have made it harder for our economy to recover and that means more Americans are suffering particularly those at the bleeding edge if you will. Single moms for instance 30 percent of single moms are in poverty today," Romney said. "This presidency has failed."

A series of polls have shown Romney trailing significantly among women, including a Washington Post/ABC News poll this week showing that Obama leads Romney among women 57 percent to 38 percent. A recent USA Today/Gallup poll showed that women in 12 battleground states support President Obama by 18 points when matched up against Romney.

Issues like contraception, abortion rights and women's health care became an issue during the GOP primary season, with Democrats arguing that the focus on such issues would benefit them in the fall. Romney has repeatedly vowed to "defund" women's health organization Planned Parenthood, which receives a fraction of its funding in the form of government grants, and supported a Senate measure called the Blunt Amendment allowing an employer to opt out of providing contraception coverage for its employees.

Romney's effort comes as President Obama's re-election campaign is attacking Romney for not immediately coming out in support of the Lilly Ledbetter Act, a law that makes it easier for women to challenge pay inequality in the workplace. (His campaign now says that Romney "supports pay equity and is not looking to change current law.") As Huffington Post points out, two of Romney's female surrogates, Mary Bono Mack and Cathy McMorris Rodgers opposed the Act in Congress. 

  • Leigh Ann Caldwell On Twitter»

    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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