President Barack Obama targeted female voters in the swing state of Colorado, telling a Denver audience that his rival Mitt Romney and Republicans support policies “more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century.”
“The choice between going backward and moving forward has never been so clear,” Obama told an audience of mostly women at the city’s Auraria Event Center. “You can take me at my record.”
Romney kept up his attacks on that record at a campaign stop in Iowa, another battleground, saying Obama’s economic policies have been devastating for middle-income Americans and accusing the president of gutting a 1996 welfare law designed to encourage recipients to find work.
After two somber visits to Colorado to console residents affected by the Aurora movie theater shootings last month and wildfires in June, Obama is spending two days campaigning in the state. He arrived as a poll shows him trailing Romney there 50 percent to 45 percent among likely voters. Obama led in two other battleground states, Wisconsin and Virginia, in the Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll.
The poll also illustrated the reason Obama is putting an emphasis on his pitch to women. Colorado women support Obama 51 percent to 43 percent, while men favor Romney 56 percent to 39 percent, the poll showed. Obama also holds an advantage with women in Virginia, 54 percent to 40 percent, and Wisconsin, 59 percent to 36 percent.
Obama won all three states in 2008 and they have 32 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
The president was introduced by Sandra Fluke, the recent graduate of Georgetown Law in Washington whom talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh in February called a “prostitute” and a “slut” for her advocacy of an Obama administration policy requiring insurers to cover birth control.
Obama “has consistently proven that he will defend our rights,” including to access to “quality, affordable health care,” Fluke said.
She also criticized Romney, saying that, when Limbaugh called her names, Obama defended her and Romney didn’t. “If Mr. Romney can’t stand up to extreme voices in his own party, then we know he’ll never stand up for us,” she said.
Pitch to Women
The appearance was part of a coordinated campaign appeal. Over the past two weeks the Obama campaign’s most-played advertisement was one titled “Women Speak.”
It features “Jenni,” who says to the camera that “it’s a scary time to be a woman” and that Romney is “just so out of touch” on issues including abortion and insurance coverage for contraception.
The spot ran 7,155 times in the 14-day period ended Aug. 6, according to New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks advertising on local broadcast, national cable and national network stations. The ad ran 526 times in the past two weeks on stations in Colorado.
Women accounted for 53 percent of the electorate in 2008 and backed Obama by 56 percent to 43 percent, according to exit polls.
Romney was in Des Moines, Iowa, where for the second straight day, he accused the Obama administration of stripping the work requirements in the 1996 overhaul of the welfare system that was signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.
“It is wrong to make any change that will make America more of a nation of government dependency,” he told a crowd of supporters. “I will restore work to welfare.”
The Republican’s campaign also has released a 30-second advertisement making the same charge.
White House press secretary Jay Carney today called Romney’s attack “blatantly dishonest.” Obama’s aides say Romney is distorting the intent of their July 12 decision to let states seek waivers from some federal rules to develop pilot projects. Romney advocated for similar flexibility in the federal law while he was governor of Massachusetts.
The issue is part of Romney’s effort to cast the president as supporting expanded government programs that would increase benefits for the poor at the expense of middle-income families.
Republicans also see an opportunity to drive a wedge between Obama and the legacy of Clinton, a popular former president who has assumed an increasingly prominent role in Obama’s re-election bid.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called Obama the “anti-Clinton” in a call with reporters today, saying the White House’s decision to consider granting state waivers was a strategy to undermine the law. Clinton called the allegations “not true” in a statement yesterday.
The campaign debate is dominated by the economy, with 48 percent of Colorado voters saying it’s the most important issue, followed by health care at 19 percent and the federal budget deficit at 11 percent, the poll showed.
Throughout the state, the president plans to highlight his call for Congress to extend through 2013 the tax cuts for individuals earning as much as $200,000 a year and married couples making as much as $250,000. Above those thresholds, Obama advocates letting rates rise. Republicans in Congress want to extend all the current low rates.
While Colorado’s jobless rate was 8.2 percent in June, the state was eighth on the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States index for improving economic health from the first quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of this year. The index combines data on tax collections, personal income, employment, home prices, mortgage foreclosures and stock performance of companies located in a state.
Colorado, with nine electoral voters, is one of nine states that switched to supporting Obama in 2008 after backing Republican President George W. Bush in 2004. Obama won Colorado with 54 percent of the vote four years ago.
Kenneth Bickers, a professor of political science at the University of Colorado in Boulder, said the November election in the state may turn on a combination of the economy, Hispanic turnout and large numbers of younger voters who are unaffiliated with either major party.
“These are people who are very much up for grabs,” he said.
Registered Democrats and independents outnumber Republicans in Denver and Pueblo counties, while registered Republicans hold a clear edge over Democrats in Mesa and El Paso counties, home to Grand Junction and Colorado Springs. In all four counties, independent voters account for more registered voters than the smaller of the two major parties. Hispanics comprise 21 percent of the state’s population.