The Gender Gap
From today’s NY Times, a timely article about Romney and the gender gap. Keep an eye on this tonight during the debate. Note the complaints by Democrats about polling methodology (ironic, given that two weeks ago the criticism came from Republicans). Once you watch the debate, comment on whether Romney did anything to further close the gender gap.
Mitt Romney’s second debate appearance Tuesday night will provide him another high-profile opportunity to offer an image of reasonableness and moderation that could be crucial in winning over key voting blocs, especially women, with whom President Obama has had long-standing leads.
The candidates must find ways to be both assertive and understanding during the 90-minute debate on Long Island. But Mr. Romney, in particular, has a chance to close the gender gap if he can dispel Mr. Obama’s criticism about the impact his policies would have on women.
Polling released Monday by Gallup and USA Today suggested that Mr. Obama’s double-digit edge among women has evaporated in the wake of the first debate with Mr. Romney. The survey found Mr. Romney, the Republican candidate, leading slightly among women in battleground states and tied elsewhere.
That survey result was strongly contested by Mr. Obama’s top advisers, who said the poll was flawed. And the Democratic advantage among women still persists in other polls, including surveys conducted by The New York Times in several battleground states last week.
But for Mr. Romney, the challenge remains: to use the debate to try to further erode the president’s usual advantage among women.
Top aides to Mr. Romney said there would be no specific effort to tailor his message to women during the town-hall-style debate. Rather, they said they hoped Mr. Romney could continue to present himself as the best alternative to the president for all of his constituencies, including women.
“Our internal polling shows strong movement toward Governor Romney over the past two weeks,” said Rich Beeson, the campaign’s political director, in a memo released to reporters Tuesday morning. “It also shows serious movement by independent voters, women, and those who were soft supporters of President Obama toward the Romney-Ryan ticket.”
The format of the debate could provide Mr. Romney the opportunity to make further inroads with women.
The questions from voters will give both candidates an opportunity to prove that they can identify with the plight of voters. If Mr. Romney can make that connection with a female questioner, it could help his cause.
There are risks, too. An awkward exchange during the debate could set back the Republican outreach to women just as the campaign is reaching its closing days. It could be hard to recover in the time left.
Advisers to Mr. Obama have been stressing Mr. Romney’s opposition to abortion and his position on contraception in the days since the first debate, hoping to energize women. Many women had said they were disappointed that Mr. Obama did not bring the topic up during the first exchange.
That will likely change tonight. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. made a point of raising the issue during his debate last week with Representative Paul D. Ryan, Mr. Romney’s running mate. Mr. Obama is likely to try to find a way to to do the same tonight.
Top strategists for Mr. Obama on Monday insisted that the Gallup poll was flawed and that the president retained a strong lead among female voters.
In a memorandum to reporters, Joel Benenson, the president’s lead pollster, said the poll’s findings regarding women underscored “deep flaws” in the way the survey identifies which voters are most likely to actually cast ballots in the November election.
Mr. Benenson noted that the poll showed Mr. Obama with a nine-point lead among all registered voters. That lead disappears when the poll is limited to likely voters, a result that Mr. Benenson says is evidence that Gallup is misidentifying who is likely to vote.
Other recent polls have shown little evidence of a shift among women toward the Republican ticket. A New York Times/CBS News/Quinnipiac University survey of Virginia last week showed Mr. Obama with a 14-point lead over Mr. Romney, essentially unchanged from before the first debate.
A similar poll in Wisconsin showed Mr. Obama with a 10-point lead. In national polls from ABC News and The Washington Post from before and after the first debate, there was no significant swing among female voters.