POLITICS

White women slow to rally behind Romney

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Photo - (L-R) Ellen Herzfelder, Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL), former Lt. Governor Kerry Healey, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Sharon Kingman and RNC Co-Chair Sharon Day pose for pictures before getting on the bus during the Women for Mitt kick-off of a "Stronger Middle Class" bus tour. (Getty Images)
(L-R) Ellen Herzfelder, Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL), former Lt. Governor Kerry Healey, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Sharon Kingman and RNC Co-Chair Sharon Day pose for pictures before getting on the bus during the Women for Mitt kick-off of a "Stronger Middle Class" bus tour. (Getty Images)
Politics,Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

President Obama's standing with white females has not improved even as his party has spent much of 2012 attacking Republicans as out of touch on women's issues.

But Democrats' rhetoric about a "war on women" has created doubt in the minds of white women about supporting the Republican ticket, hurting presidential nominee Mitt Romney with a demographic he must win.

Obama took 46 percent of the vote from white women in 2008, nearly identical to the 47 percent he registered in a recent Pew Research Center poll. But while Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain won white women in 2008 with 53 percent, Romney is polling 8 points lowers and is now behind Obama.

White women vote (in percentages):
State: Obama 2008, Obama 2012, McCain 2008, Romney 2012  
Virginia: 40, 41, 59, 54
Ohio: 47, 45, 52, 49
Florida: 42, 41, 57, 53
Colorado: 52, 49, 46, 47
Wisconsin: 57, 51, 43, 45
Nationwide: 46, 47, 53, 45
Sources: Quinnipiac University/The New York Times/CBS News polls, CNN 2008 exit polls, Pew Research Center

It's a stark reality for Romney, who needs suburban women in his camp to offset Obama's lock on black voters and overwhelming support among Hispanics.

"It's possible that by election that vote will look very similar to 2008," said Kyle Kondik, political analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "But getting to 2008 numbers doesn't do it for Romney."

In swing states, Obama's attempts to rally women around social issues have received mixed results. In Virginia and Florida, Romney still leads Obama among white women but has seen a drop off in support, while in Colorado and Wisconsin, he has actually picked up votes, according to recent Quinnipiac University surveys and 2008 exit polls. In Ohio, the gap between Obama and Romney is virtually unchanged.

Across those five battlegrounds, Obama has either not seen a change or he has fallen out of favor with many white women. It's a fact Republicans think they can build on going into the final stretch of the campaign.

"I like our chances knowing that versus the million and one hurdles that the McCain-Palin team faced in 2008," said Pete Snyder, who is leading the Republican Party's coordinated campaign efforts in Virginia. "If the challenge here is just up the ante a little bit more with white women and that's the path to the presidency, I like that as an issue for the next six weeks."

Calls to the Obama campaign were not returned.

For months, Democrats have relied on social issues to energize their base and attack Romney. Obama gave Georgetown law student-turned women's health advocate Sandra Fluke a prominent role in the Democratic convention while blasting Republicans for backing an across-the-board ban on abortions at their own gathering.

That has fueled a large gender gap between Obama and Romney. Among all women, Obama is up 56 to 37. But among suburban white women in states like Virginia, the result has been more to lessen enthusiasm for Romney than to inspire support for Obama.

"In statewide races, suburban white woman in the near end and other D.C. area exurbs are sensitive to those issues," said Karen Hult, a political science professor at Virginia Tech. "Suburban white women, middle class and higher are going to be paying attention first to jobs but also contraception and education at all levels."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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