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Obama Tries To Regain Female Voter Advantage

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: And I'm Scott Horsley, traveling with President Obama, who's eager to regain the advantage he once enjoyed with women voters. The Obama campaign spent much of yesterday taking Governor Romney to task for what some regard as his out-of-date comments about women in the workplace.

Mr. Obama drove the point home last night in front of 14,000 supporters on a college campus in Athens, Ohio.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: See, we don't have to order up some binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women to learn and teach and thrive and start businesses.

HORSLEY: The president often notes that the first bill he signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Act, makes it easier for women to sue if they've been victims of unequal pay. Governor Romney has not said whether he supports that law. Mr. Obama says his two daughters should not be paid less for doing the same job as a man.


OBAMA: And, by the way, men out there, you don't want your wives paid less than a man for the same job. So this isn't just a women's issue. This is a family issue. It's a middle-class issue.

HORSLEY: A woman in the audience named Mary Ann, who didn't want to give her last name, nodded appreciatively. She's a part-time letter carrier in Ohio who bristles at having to deliver anti-Obama flyers. She says she's not impressed by Governor Romney's claim that he recruited women to serve in his Cabinet in Massachusetts.

MARY ANN: Yes, he hired women. And I was thinking to myself: Yeah, because he could get them at a lower rate. That was the only reason Mitt Romney hired women.

HORSLEY: A Gallup poll released this week found women in swing states have the same concerns that men do about jobs and the economy. But women also listed additional concerns about abortion, health care and equal rights as among the most important to them. Those were also the issues that college student Rachel Cowell cited yesterday when she introduced the president in Mount Vernon, Iowa.


RACHEL COWELL: As a woman, I'm grateful that he's defending Planned Parenthood, standing up for equal pay for equal work, and ensuring that women's health decisions are made by women, not politicians.

HORSLEY: Governor Romney has said he would end federal funding for family planning, and he supported a bill that would allow employers to exclude birth control from workers' health insurance. In Iowa and Ohio, Mr. Obama offered supporters his own highlight reel from Tuesday night's debate. Not surprisingly, he had a rather different take from that of Governor Romney.


OBAMA: Let's recap what we learned last night. His tax plan doesn't add up. His jobs plan doesn't create jobs. His deficit reduction plan adds to the deficit. So, Iowa, you know, everybody here has heard of the New Deal. You've heard of the fair deal. You've heard of the square deal. Mitt Romney's trying to sell you a sketchy deal. We are not buying it. We know better.

HORSLEY: Sketchy deal is a phrase Mr. Obama debuted during the debate to describe Governor Romney's tax plan. The GOP presidential hopeful says by closing tax loopholes, he can offset the cost of a proposed 20 percent rate cut without busting the budget or saddling the middle class with higher costs. But Governor Romney hasn't say which loopholes he'd close. Mr. Obama says that should make voters nervous.


OBAMA: Here's a tip: Usually, when a politician tells you he's going to wait until after the election to explain a plan to you, they don't have a pleasant surprise in store for you.

HORSLEY: The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center issued an updated report yesterday, saying Romney's newest proposal to limit itemized deductions would recover only about a third of the cost of his tax cuts or less. Scott Horsley, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.