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Obama on comeback trail but still far from re-election

The 2012 presidential election has been commonly compared to the 2004 Bush-Kerry race in which each candidate clung onto a base of 47 percent of voters, with the remaining 6 percent — swing voters — left in the air. During a closed-door press conference in New York minutes before last Tuesday's debate, Jim Messina, Obama's campaign manager, told a group of reporters that likely women voters in Colorado are the model of the 6 percent of swing voters. Now both candidates are shifting their focuses to down-in-the-middle women voters, trying their best to sell themselves to these members of the other sex.

Jim Rutenberg and Jeremy W. Peters recently wrote in The New York Times that the Romney and Obama campaigns are in a heated rivalry for women's votes. “The level of intensity left little doubt that the election was coming down not only to a state-by-state fight for territory, but also to one for the allegiance of vital demographic groups, chief among them undecided women,” they opined.

The president has counted on a strong showing among women voters to offset Romney's advantage among men. But after Romney's debate performance, many women saw an unfiltered view of his plans and gave Obama another look. During the second debate, Romney noted that he had reviewed “binders full of women” for high administration positions when he was the governor of Massachusetts.

A recent Gallup poll released Oct. 16 indicates a tie between Obama and Romney among likely women voters in key battleground states. Other polls have suggested that Romney has narrowed Obama's edge among women, helping the GOP contender gain a lead in a number of surveys.

Obama is fighting back, wearing a pink, breast-caner awareness bracelet on his wrist while campaigning in Iowa on Wednesday. His campaign pollster Joel Beneson criticized the USA/Gallup poll as “an extreme outlier, defying the trends seen in every other battleground state and national poll.“

What the polls are showing is the once strong advantage of Obama's support among suburban women is peeling away. This structural shift of suburban women can be the game-changer.

But the question is what issues are on the likely women voters' minds? MSNBC chief political correspondent Chuck Todd believes these voters are politically open-minded who buy into Romney free market capitalism, small government and cut-taxes policies, but at the same time care about equality and women's freedom over one's own body.

Romney seems to suffer on issues of abortion. But on issues of the economy after the debate, CNN found that Romney came out ahead on the essential question of who is better for handling “the economy” with 58 percent against Obama's 40. Obama continues to run behind on the all-important argument over who offers the better prospect of a stronger economy, greater prosperity and serious deficit reduction.

Romney is gaining momentum. Obama led 49.1 percent to 45 percent in an average of national polls conducted about one week before the candidates' first debate. Polls since then have been in the reverse, with Romney averaging 47.4 percent versus Obama's 46.9. The Republican candidate also leads among independent voters. According to a recent Fox News poll, an average 49 percent of the likely independent voters say they support Romney, while 37 percent favor Obama.

Former Bush strategist Karl Rove said the movement of the race is reflected by rising poll numbers for Romney in at least 20 states, including the battlegrounds of Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Virginia, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Iowa and Pennsylvania.

The president must do his best, including coming up with new ideas, to reverse the trend with a resounding win of his own in the upcoming debate in Florida. Otherwise, he may have to ship out.

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