Obama Courts Female Voters in Top Television Ad, Speeches

President Barack Obama is intensifying his pitch to women in campaign commercials and speeches, an acknowledgement they constitute a majority of voters and view him more favorably than men.

Obama’s most-aired campaign ad in the past two weeks features a woman, identified as Jenni, who says “it’s a scary time to be a woman” and Republican challenger Mitt Romney is “just so out of touch” on issues including abortion and health insurance coverage for contraception.

The ad ran 7,155 times in a 14-day period ending Aug. 6, according to New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks advertising on local broadcast, national cable and national network stations. It accounted for 22 percent of the 32,565 spots the campaign ran during that span, CMAG data show.

The frequency of the campaign’s appeal underscores the importance of women in the Nov. 6 election. Women, who generally favor Democratic candidates, accounted for 53 percent of the electorate in 2008 and backed Obama over Republican nominee John McCain by 56 percent to 43 percent, according to a national exit poll.

This year, Obama is counting on a replay of that gap.

About 58 percent of women said they have a favorable impression of Obama, compared with 36 percent who said the same about Romney, in an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted Aug. 1-5. Among men surveyed, 47 percent said they view Obama favorably and 44 percent view Romney favorably.

Gender Gap

Since the gender gap emerged in the 1980 election, women have been “very key to the Democratic base, including electing presidents,” Dianne Bystrom, a political scientist at Iowa State University in Ames, said in an interview.

“The Democratic presidential candidate needs to make the gender gap as large as possible and the Republican candidate tries to narrow it as much as possible,” she said.

Obama’s “Jenni” ad says Romney supports outlawing abortion even in cases of rape and incest, citing a November 2007 Republican candidates debate in which Romney said that he would welcome a “consensus” that “we don’t want to have abortion in this country at all, period.”

Romney went on to say, “That’s not where we are. That’s not where America is today.”

Romney, who supported abortion rights earlier in his political career, has said he adopted an anti-abortion position when he was governor of Massachusetts and opposes the procedure with some exceptions.

Limiting Abortions

“I am pro-life and believe that abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother,” Romney wrote in National Review in June 2011.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center’s nonpartisan FactCheck.org said the Obama ad amounts to “falsifying” Romney’s position. “The Obama campaign is a repeat offender with this distortion of Romney’s position on abortion,” it said in a July 31 analysis.

Obama’s “Jenni” ad ran 526 times in the past 14 days on stations in Colorado, where Obama courted women yesterday -- defending his 2010 health-care law’s benefits for women and criticizing the positions of Republicans including Romney.

“When it comes to a woman’s right to make her own health- care choices, they want to take us back to the policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century,” Obama said at an appearance in Denver.

Targeted by Limbaugh

Obama was introduced there by Sandra Fluke, a recent graduate of Georgetown Law in Washington who was called a “prostitute” and “slut” by radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh for advocating inclusion of contraception coverage in health insurance plans.

Fluke “was brave to stand up for herself” and is “an eloquent advocate for women’s health,” Obama said.

As Obama focused on female voters, Republicans criticized an ad from a pro-Obama super-political action committee that attacks Romney for actions by Bain Capital LLC, the Boston-based private equity firm he headed.

The ad from Priorities USA Action links the closing of a Bain-owned plant to the loss of a worker’s health insurance and the death of his wife from cancer.

“I do not think Mitt Romney realizes what he’s done to anyone,” the worker, Joe Soptic, says in the ad. “And furthermore, I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned.”

Romney left Bain before the plant closed, and Soptic’s wife, who died five years later, had kept her own job and health insurance for a period of time after her husband lost his, according to a Washington Post fact-check that gave the ad “four Pinocchios,” its worst rating for truthfulness.

“President Obama and his campaign are willing to say and do anything to hide the president’s disappointing record,” Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net

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