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Romney Closes Gender Gap

Remember that Obama campaign memo a few weeks back that insisted the president was having no problems with women voters? About that:

Less than two weeks out from Election Day, Republican Mitt Romney has erased President Barack Obama’s 16-point advantage among women, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows. And the president, in turn, has largely eliminated Romney’s edge among men.

Those churning gender dynamics leave the presidential race still a virtual dead heat, with Romney favored by 47 percent of likely voters and Obama by 45 percent, a result within the poll’s margin of sampling error, the survey shows.

Fortunately for Democrats, Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s controversial comments about abortion gave Obama an opportunity to rehash his favorite “war on women” arguments on Jay Leno last night:

“I don’t know how these guys come up with these ideas,” Obama said in an appearance on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” Wednesday. “Let me make a very simple proposition, rape is rape. It is a crime. And so these various distinctions about rape don’t make too much sense to me, don’t make any sense to me.” … 

“This is exactly why you don’t want a bunch of politicians, mostly male, making decisions about women’s health care decisions,” he told Leno, without mentioning Romney by name. “Women are capable of making these decisions in consultation with their partners, with their doctors, and for politicians to want to intrude in this stuff often times without any information is a huge problem. And this is obviously a part of what’s at stake in this election.”

There’s no defense for Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s comment (“even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen”), which was at best poorly-phrased and at worst stunningly insensitive. Whatever his stance on abortion or religious views, a potential senator should know better than to publicly muse that rape is just part of God’s plan.

That said, Obama’s characterization of the comment is unfair and misleading. Mourdock never suggested that rape wasn’t rape, or that it wasn’t a crime. To say Mourdock came to his position on abortion because he doesn’t believe “women are capable of making these decisions” is another straw man. Like most pro-lifers, his views are based on religious and moral convictions, not misogyny.

Will Obama’s “war on women” revival move the dial? Maybe, but Molly Ball’s report seems to indicate undecided women voters see these transparent political tactics for what they are. If a full year of this rhetoric hasn’t turned women against Romney, it’s hard to imagine Obama’s last-minute push will make a difference.