The Washington Post

Romney battles for female voters, conservatives

Mitt Romney has spent the past few days on the campaign trail surrounded by women, slamming President Obama’s record on the economy and ticking off the economic hardships faced by female entrepreneurs.

On Thursday, the presumptive Republican nominee was joined on stage by one of the most high-profile conservative women in the country — Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who bowed out of the race for the White House in January and remains a favorite of the religious right.

While Bachmann never addressed the gender gap or the GOP “war on women,” as Democrats have dubbed some Republican efforts, the context of her appearance with Romney was clear: that the fight for this swing state and a White House victory is all about appealing to women.

Standing on stage next to a candidate she once referred to as the hybrid “Newt Romney,” and whom she once assailed as not conservative, Bachmann framed November as a simple choice.

“You see, for all of America, this is a very simple proposition this November: President Barack Obama. President Mitt Romney,” Bachmann said. “You decide, very easy.”

The Obama campaign, which has a 19-point edge among women, according to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, sought to frame the contest around women, a group that Romney has been trying to appeal to, appearing on the stump with his wife, Ann, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).

In an online graphic released Thursday , the Obama campaign compared the president’ s policies to Romney’s, which Democrats claim would cut funding for education and health care. The Republican National Committee shot back, citing high gas prices and an uptick in college tuition under Obama.

For his part, Romney, who was introduced by Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), focused almost exclusively on the economy as well, blaming Obama for high unemployment rates and energy costs and runaway spending.

“It’s unacceptable in this great country that we have this kind of president who has failed us so badly,” Romney said, adding that small business start-ups have declined under Obama. “This is not a record of success. His failures are long.”

Even before Bachmann, McDonnell and Romney took the stage, a group of protesters gathered in front of Crofton Industries, where the trio appeared, to speak out against a Virginia bill signed by McDonnell that mandates that women have an ultrasound before they can get an abortion.

Women’s groups have seized on the bill and cited it as evidence of a “war on women.” Bachmann’s and McDonnell’s silence on the sort of social issues that both have become known for suggests that such issues will take a back seat in Romney’s push for female voters.

McDonnell, who has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate, said that he wasn’t thinking about the No. 2 slot and wanted to help deliver his state, which went for Obama in 2008.

“I’m going to do everything I can to help the ticket. I’ve told him that. I just want to help him win Virginia,” he said.

Polls show Obama with a lead in Virginia, even with McDonnell on the ticket in a hypothetical match-up.

Obama heads to Virginia on Saturday to officially kick off his reelection campaign.

“Now politics is underway. It's underway again and you’re gonna hear them all right here in Virginia,” Romney said. “This may well be the state that decides who the next president is.”

Nia-Malika Henderson is a political reporter for The Fix.

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