WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama sports a pink breast cancer awareness bracelet on his wrist as he campaigns across battleground states. He slams rival Mitt Romney as a throwback with 1950s views of women. And he’s airing an edgy new ad enticing women casting their first ballot to pick the right man, him.
The consistent emphasis on women comes as several polls have found Obama’s once commanding lead among women voters narrowing.
In the past few weeks, Obama’s lead dropped sharply in several surveys:
--from 18 percentage points to zero in a poll by the Associated Press.
--from 18 points to 6 in Pew Research Center polls.
--from 14 points to 4 in polls by Monmouth University;
--from 11 points to 6 in the Politico/George Washington University
The drop was not universal. He had a 15-point lead among women in a new ABC News/Washington Post daily tracking poll. He led by 8 points in a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll and in a Gallup poll.
Obama’s campaign brushes off polls showing Obama and Romney tied among women. Campaign manager Jim Messina insisted Monday that Obama is “leading among women by double digits nationally and in every battleground state.”
Still, the campaign is fighting to shore up support among the critically important voting bloc.
Introducing Obama in New Hampshire on Saturday, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen characterized Romney as someone “women can’t trust,” mocking his debate line that he was given “binders full of women” when he sought to diversify his administration.
“We’ll keep our rights, we’ll keep our health care and we’ll keep our president,” Shaheen said.
Obama followed her by charging that a Romney administration would “turn back the clock 50 years for women.”
An edgy pro-Obama ad by Lena Dunham, star of the HBO show “Girls,” suggestively links voting for the first time to losing virginity. “The first time shouldn’t be with just anybody,” she says into the camera. “You want to do it with a great guy.”
Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who helped conduct the Politico/George Washington University Battleground Poll, told Politico that “women are holding back because of the economy.”
Women may be “focusing more strongly on the economy than on women’s issues,” said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political scientist at the University of Southern California. But she added that Obama also wounded himself – among women as well as men – with his lackluster performance at the first debate.
Analysts also blame a contraction in Obama support to Romney’s success at the first debate in casting off the portrayal of him as an unlikely leader.
“I think a lot of these polls were reflecting some real movement there, that Romney was in a pretty deep deficit, and he came out, overcame negative expectations and presented himself as more moderate than in the primaries,” said Michael Dimock, associate director for research of the Pew Research Center.
Yet Dimock says he expects Obama to finish with the same gender gap – more support among women than among men -- as his Democratic presidential predecessors.
“I don’t see anything in the polling that suggests it will be substantially larger or smaller than what we’ve seen historically,” Dimock said. “I don’t see that there’s anything unique to the gender gap this year.”