President Obama on Wednesday resurrected charges that Republicans are engaged in a so-called war on women as he sought to pad his lead with female voters in battleground states.
"They want to take us back to policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century," Obama said of Republican Mitt Romney during a campaign stop in Denver. "He says he's the candidate of freedom but freedom is the chance to determine the care you need, when you need it."
Obama accused Romney of not supporting equal pay for women, looking to defund Planned Parenthood and intent on overturning health care reforms that would provide free contraceptives to women.
Amid stubbornly high unemployment, Obama must mobilize female voters -- one of his core constituencies -- if he is to retain control of the White House in November.
Obama is painting Romney as backwards and out of touch on women's issues in hopes of convincing suburban women like those he targeted in Colorado that they need to mobilize against a candidate bent on undermining their rights.
Stoking the drumbeat against Romney, Obama was introduced at the Denver rally by Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law student who gained national attention for speaking out on Capitol Hill about the role of government in funding contraceptives. Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh called Fluke a "slut" for her public support of an Obama health care provision that requires contraception to be covered by insurance -- an insult that enraged and galvanized Democrats.
"This election will decide whether the rights that generations of women have fought for will be rolled back," Fluke said, embracing her new role as an Obama surrogate.
Romney's pitch to female voters is rooted in an economic argument that Obama has failed Americans on the kitchen-table issues that concern them the most.
Republicans on Wednesday accused the president of pandering to female voters and of trying to distract voters from his failed economic record.
"No false, recycled attacks can distract from the fact that President Obama's four years in office haven't been kind to women," said Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg.
An apparent gender gap between the two candidates underscores their sense of urgency over female voters.
Obama leads Romney among women nationally 50 percent to 42 percent, while Romney leads the president 49 percent to 42 percent among men, according to the latest Gallup poll.
And a Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News survey released Wednesday shows Romney ahead in Colorado by 5 percentage points but trailing Obama in both Virginia and Wisconsin.
Aware of those razor-thin margins, the Obama campaign released an online video featuring actress Elizabeth Banks, who recounts her personal experiences with Planned Parenthood and tells voters to support the president to ensure the organization isn't gutted financially.
But Republicans, including some women, cried foul on that clarion call.
"President Obama's entire approach to attracting the female vote in Colorado lies below the belt, literally," said Krista Kafer, executive director of Colorado's Future Project, a conservative advocacy group. "Women are interested in much bigger things than 'free' birth control and the kind of cradle-to-grave policies that the president has advanced in the name of 'protecting women.'"