Women's vote hinges on social issues, pocketbook

(CBS News) One of Michelle Obama's goals in her address at the Democratic National Convention Tuesday night is to strengthen the president's support among women.

Four years ago, Mr. Obama won the women's vote by 13 points.

While Obama still maintains a big lead among women today - especially among those concerned about the GOP's views on social and health issues - the Romney campaign is working hard to win over ladies on the economy.

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Emily Blout is a 28-year-old grad student in Arlington, Va., and she's voting for the president mostly because of social issues. She likes the president's health care reform - and its guaranteed coverage of contraception. She does not like that Republican candidate Mitt Romney would repeal the reform and that he opposes most abortions.

When the GOP-controlled legislature in Virginia voted to force women getting an abortion to view the fetus on an ultrasound, Blout felt women were being targeted.

"In Virginia, I see absolutely there's a war against women," Blout said. "I want to make my own decisions, between me and my doctor, and that's what they're targeting."

Mary Mireles
Mary Mireles
CBS News

Mary Mireles, a voter in Herndon, Va., calls the notion of a "war on women" preposterous. Mireles, a telecom manager and mother of two, supports Romney because her issue is the sputtering economy.

"I'm very concerned about being able to afford getting my children to college and getting myself to retirement," she said.

In the latest poll by CBS News, the president leads Romney with women voters by 10 points nationwide. The gap is even larger in some of the key swing states.

In polls done in August by Quinnipiac, CBS News and The New York Times, the president's lead with female voters was 14 points in Virginia, 13 in Ohio, and 12 points in Florida.

In all of these states, the president is running social issue ads aimed at women and stressing the Romney-Ryan positions on abortion and contraception.

Both Romney and Ryan back proposals to outlaw abortion.

But Romney does have a strong appeal among married women voters like Mary Mireles. With them, Romney has a four point lead in the polls.

Thats why Romney's wife, Ann, stressed so many pocketbook concerns in last week's convention speech.

Near the beginning of her speech, she proclaimed: "I love you women!"

"The good jobs, the chance at college, that home you want to buy - just get harder," she said.

Mireles said Romney resonates with her when he argues that he'll be the better job creator.

"He knows how to run a company, he's been a CEO, he has run the winter Olympics. He knows how to get the job done, how to hire people, how to create jobs, how to create wealth," she said.

Emily Blout's support for the president is also based on the pocketbook - the financial relief she feels with the certainty of health insurance.

"It's intimately connected to the economy and my ability to get a job and my ability to make a good life for me and my future children," she said.

The women's vote is so crucial this year because the gender gap is what gives the president a narrow lead overall in swing states like Virginia. To win the election, the president needs to hold his lead with women while Romney needs to take it away.

  • Wyatt Andrews

    Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Washington D.C. He is responsible for tracking trends in politics, health care, energy, the environment and foreign affairs.

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