A new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds President Barack Obama has opened up a lead in some key swing states over his likely Republican Presidential campaign rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The reason: women voters continue to flee Romney — a major problem the GOP will have to fix in the general election campaign.
President Obama has opened the first significant lead of the 2012 campaign in the nation’s dozen top battleground states, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, boosted by a huge shift of women to his side.
In the fifth Swing States survey taken since last fall, Obama leads Republican front-runner Mitt Romney 51%-42% among registered voters just a month after the president had trailed him by two percentage points.
The biggest change came among women under 50. In mid-February, just under half of those voters supported Obama. Now more than six in 10 do while Romney’s support among them has dropped by 14 points, to 30%. The president leads him 2-1 in this group.
Romney’s main advantage is among men 50 and older, swamping Obama 56%-38%.
Republicans’ traditional strength among men “won’t be good enough if we’re losing women by nine points or 10 points,” says Sara Taylor Fagen, a Republican strategist and former political adviser to President George W. Bush. “The focus on contraception has not been a good one for us … and Republicans have unfairly taken on water on this issue.”
I bold faced that so I don’t get the usual emails about a)a poll’s methodology is wrong (if it doesn’t favor a partisan’s preference partisans of both parties try and dismiss the poll by raising the CYA issue of methodology; they never complain about the methodology of a poll favoring their candidate) and, b)the poll story only quotes Democrats but a Republican couldn’t possibly agree with it.
In the poll, Romney leads among all men by a single point, but the president leads among women by 18. That reflects a greater disparity between the views of men and women than the 12-point gender gap in the 2008 election.
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina says Romney’s promise to “end Planned Parenthood” — the former Massachusetts governor says he wants to eliminate federal funding for the group — and his endorsement of an amendment that would allow employers to refuse to cover contraception in health care plans have created “severe problems” for him in the general election.
The problem for Mitt Romney is going to be this: he will likely have less leeway than an other candidate in modern political history to moderate his primary election positions and move closer to the center. For one thing, conservatives are watching him. For another, the media is watching him. And, most importantly, the controversy over his campaign officia’s comments about general elections like using an Etch A Sketch means if Romney shifts position it will generate lots of stories and Democratic party campaign commerials — most likely featuring an Etch a Sketch.
But Romney and the GOP will have to solve this problem with women voters. Even with many Republican governors and legislatures putting in place laws that will now make it harder for some groups that traditionally vote Democratic to vote, this gender gap disparity could be the unintentional silver political bullet for the Dems.