There is nothing so revealing or, frankly, pathetic as the president of the United States, who has studiously avoided serious news interview shows, going on the Jay Leno show to tell women that Republicans don’t understand that “rape is rape.” It is a window into the mindset of a candidate and a campaign that is pulling its hair out over the gender gap and thinks the way to solve it is to treat women like quivering children.

Obama is right to panic. The Associated Press reports:

Less than two weeks out from Election Day, Republican Mitt Romney has erased President Barack Obama’s 16-point advantage among women, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows. And the president, in turn, has largely eliminated Romney’s edge among men.

Those churning gender dynamics leave the presidential race still a virtual dead heat, with Romney favored by 47 percent of likely voters and Obama by 45 percent, a result within the poll’s margin of sampling error, the survey shows.

After a commanding first debate performance and a generally good month, Romney has gained ground with Americans on a number of important fronts, including their confidence in how he would handle the economy and their impressions of his ability to understand their problems.

The Obama rhetoric is now nearly unintelligible. (“Romney quickly distanced himself from the remark about rape by Republican Richard Mourdock,” the AP article said. “But Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the incident was ‘a reminder that a Republican Congress working with a Republican President Mitt Romney would feel that women should not be able to make choices about their own health care.’ ” What?!)

The collapse of Obama’s winning coalition from 2008 is evident on multiple fronts. Michael Barone tells us that the affluent suburbs are trending toward Romney. “A pro-Romney affluent swing is confirmed by the internals of some national polls. The 2008 exit poll showed Obama narrowly carrying voters with incomes over $75,000. Post-debate Pew Research and Battleground polls have shown affluent suburbanite Romneycarrying them by statistically significant margins.”

Even young voters are problematic for Obama. A GOP insider affiliated with a superPAC cracks, “Check out the ads they’re running targeting kids in Ohio right now. They’re basically saying, ‘Get off your lazy a-- and X-box and go out and vote, so rich people don’t steal your money later.’ ”

No wonder the president is now drawing in the RealClearPolitics average the support of (you guessed it) 47 percent of the voters. He’s systematically eliminating those parts of the electorate that want a mature, problem-solving moderate. He was that candidate in 2008; now, as reflected in his frenetic appeals to fear (“not one of us”) and envy he’s become, metaphorically, a pol with as much appeal as a state senator in a blue state with a heavily Democratic electorate. Obama — The One, the leg-tingler — is now a crass pol from Chicago once again.