MENDENHALL, Pa.--Mitt Romney, the all but certain Republican presidential nominee now that Rick Santorum is out, is trying to reframe the battle for female voters by accusing the Obama administration of waging “the real war on women” by its failure to jump-start the economy.
“During the Obama years, women have suffered,” Romney told a crowd Tuesday in this town just outside Philadelphia. “This president did not cause the recession; he just made it worse and made it longer. And it’s been harder for the recovery to occur. And, as a result, women have suffered."
He added: “The brunt of the burden of job losses during the Obama years have been suffered by women.”
Romney said that 92.3 percent of the jobs lost during Obama’s years as president were women’s jobs, a figure that has been rated “mostly false” by the fact-checking website Politifact for failing to take into consideration the full picture of unemployment during the recession.
While it is true that women have lost significantly more jobs during the past three years, the reverse was true in 2007 and 2008, when the larger number of jobs lost were men’s, particularly in the construction and manufacturing fields. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that since the recession started in 2007, women account for just 39.7 percent of the total job loss.
The Obama campaign fought back Wednesday with a statement from Lilly Ledbetter, who said she was "shocked and disappointed" that his campaign declined on a call Wednesday morning to say if Romney supports the 2009 equal-pay law passed in Ledbetter's name. It gives women more tools in their fight for equal pay with men and was the first bill Obama signed into law.
Romney’s focus on women on the trail and in interviews, including one Wednesday on Fox News -- comes as recent polls have shown him trailing Obama by double digits among female voters, with a USA Today/Gallup poll released on April 2 putting him 18 percentage points behind Obama in 12 of the country’s battleground states.
Some political strategists have suggested that debate on issues like contraception during the Republican primary have hurt the party’s standing with women. Romney was criticized by Democrats and some women’s groups for promising to get rid of Planned Parenthood (or at least federal funding for it) and for his support of the “Blunt amendment,” which would have allowed exemptions for employers who have religious or moral objections to including birth control or other health services in their insurance coverage.
By shifting the conversation about female voters away from social issues such as contraception and toward the economy, Romney is attempting to reframe the argument and hit the president in an area where he has shown weakness. Some of the same polls that have shown Romney trailing Obama among women also show the former Massachusetts governor with an edge over Obama on the economy.
Lately, Romney has begun to accuse Obama of adopting populist policies and rhetoric that are divisive. Speaking in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday, Romney painted Obama's “Buffett Rule,” a proposal that would create a minimum 30 percent income tax for millionaires, as one such example.
“See, this president goes around and tries to find some group of Americans that other Americans may not like a lot, or may not trust a lot,” Romney said. “And then he says, ‘Let’s tax them. It’s their fault.’ This blame, this populism of going to try and divide America is not only wrong, it’s dangerous.”