Wild Card: Women Can Still Change This Election Outcome

Women have always been one of the biggest groups of supporters in President Obama’s corner. In 2008, women supported Obama 56% compared to John McCain’s 43%. But this time around, the president’s hold on female voters isn’t as strong, and the floundering support has the potential to mean the difference between a second term for Obama and a first term for Mitt Romney, according to Reuters.

After Obama’s less than stellar performance at the first presidential debate of this election, Romney seemed to gain ground with all demographics of voters, but especially with women. A Pew Research poll revealed that Romney’s approval rating among women was tied with Obama’s after that debate at 47%. Today, that number has changed because of Obama’s improved performance at more recent debates, but he still only leads Romney by five percentage points.

This is a small gap compared to the eight point lead he had among  in September, and when you consider that he trails Romney by six points with male voters, according to Reuters. Although Obama’s camp stresses that they support women’s rights when it comes issues such as equal pay, abortion and healthcare, Reuters explains that this may be contributing to the problem. Recent polls have shown both men and women care more about jobs and the economy than any other issue. By catering his campaign towards women’s rights issues, the president could be hurting his chances. From Lara Brown, Villanova University political scientist:

“I’m wondering if the women who are migrating toward Romney, they’re just saying to themselves, ‘Abortion and birth control and equal pay are not my issues, what I’m more concerned about is the overall state and health of the economy.”

And though Obama still has a stonghold on the single women’s vote, Romney has a shot with married women and older single women like widows and divorcees. New polling data show that the women’s vote is notably split along marital status, says Page Gardner, founder and president of the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund and the Voter Participation Center, both founded to mobilize single women for political participation. An Investor’s Business Daily/TIPP poll released this week shows that single women favor Obama 63 to 23%, while married women favor Romney 51 to 41%.

Both candidates are going after these groups full force. Last week, Girls creator and star Lena Dunham did a PSA for Obama. Dunham has very quickly become a symbol for the young, single, anxious female voter. The Romney campaign, meanwhile, has made a concerted effort to reach out to married women.  Ann Romney has helped her husband with this effort a lot. During her RNC speech she went off book to say,  “I love you, women!” The comment was intended for the “moms who always have to work a little harder, to make everything right,” she said.

No matter who holds the lead among them, women are one of the most important factors in an election for many reasons. According to Reuters, women make up more than half of the U.S. electorate, and 7% more women vote in presidential elections than men. Also, for more than 40 years women have been the most reliable voting bloc, according to The Washington Post. The Post’s KellyAnne Conway wrote:

“Both political parties have cruised to power in recent elections on the strength of the female vote. In 2008, Obama got 56% of women’s votes, an astonishing number for a non-incumbent. Two years later, women favored Republicans over Democrats for Congress, 49% to 48%, in what was widely seen as a rebuke of the first two years of the Obama administration.”

The lesson here is, female voters can make or break an election. If Obama’s grasp on women is not strong enough on Tuesday, Romney may be moving to Pennsylvania Avenue.

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