MOUNT VERNON, Iowa — Mitt Romney debuted a new TV ad this week that softens his positions on abortion and contraception and urges women voters to focus more on economic issues than social ones.

At a moment when women are seen as increasingly crucial to the outcome of the election, Romney is trying to build on gains he has made in recent polls. He also is trying to reverse the advantage that President Obama has built this year in part by hammering at Romney’s many statements on women’s health issues during the Republican primary season, when the GOP candidate described himself as “severely conservative.”

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