MOUNT VERNON, IOWA - One day after their contentious, finger-
pointing debate, President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney
vied aggressively for the support of women voters Wednesday, as they
and their running mates charged across nearly a half-dozen
battleground states in the close race for the White House with 20
days to run.
Not even Republicans disputed that Obama's debate performance was
much stronger than the listless showing two weeks earlier that
helped spark a rise in the polls for Romney. The two rivals meet one
more time, on Monday in Florida.
The first post-debate polls were divided, some saying Romney won,
others finding Obama did. At least some of the voters who asked the
questions in the town-hall style encounter remained uncommitted. "If
Gov. Romney could actually provide the jobs, that would be a good
thing because we really need them," said Nina Gonzalez, a 2008 Obama
voter, neatly summarizing the uncertainty confronting voters in a
slow-growth, high-unemployment economy.
Obama wore a pink wristband to show support for Breast Cancer
Awareness Month as he campaigned in Iowa and then Ohio, and reminded
his audience that the first legislation he signed after becoming
president made it easier for women to take pay grievances to court.
Romney took no position on that bill when it passed Congress, and
his campaign says he would not seek its repeal. But Obama chided
him, saying: "That shouldn't be a complicated question. Equal pay
for equal work."
He also jabbed at Romney's remark during Tuesday night's debate
that as Massachusetts governor, he received "whole binders full of
women" after saying he wanted to appoint more of them to his
administration. "We don't have to collect a bunch of binders to find
qualified, talented women," he said.
"I've got two daughters, and I don't want them paid less for the
same job as a man," Obama said at an appearance in Athens, Ohio,
Romney's campaign launched a new television commercial that
seemed designed to take the edge ever so slightly off his opposition
to abortion - another example of his October move toward the middle -
while urging women voters to keep pocketbook issues uppermost in
their minds when they cast their ballots.
"In fact he thinks abortion should be an option in cases of rape,
incest or to save a mother's life," says a woman in the new ad.
Pivoting quickly to economic matters, she adds, "But I'm more
concerned about the debt our children will be left with. …