The tightening presidential race has cost President Barack Obama his longstanding edge among female voters, according to a new AP/GfK poll.
The finding upends one of the key dynamics of the presidential contest. For months, Obama has had a substantial lead among women that often reached into the double digits. Counterbalancing that was Republican nominee Mitt Romney's persistent advantage among male voters.
But according to the poll, neither scenario applies anymore. Romney and Obama were running even among female voters, with the poll registering a 47-47 split; at the same time, Romney's lead among male voters shrank to 5 points. Romney held a narrow edge overall, registering a 47 percent to 45 percent lead over President Obama that falls within the poll's margin of error.
Polls represent a temporary snapshot, so it would be premature to say the AP/GfK poll heralds a fundamentally reshaped contest. But at the least, it suggests an astonishing reversal.
Both Obama and Romney have made a concerted effort to woo female voters. The president's strategy centered on touting his record on advancing women's issues, such as signing into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier for women to sue their employers over wage discrimination, and on warning that Republicans were waging a "war on women" that would damage reproductive rights.
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Polls showed female voters rallied to Obama during a dispute over the Affordable Care Act's requirement that employers offer health insurance covering contraception. Republicans, including Romney, decried the mandate as an affront to religious liberty.
Meanwhile, Romney has sought to appeal to women by arguing that they have lost ground financially under President Obama. While debating President Obama over the course of the last month, Romney repeatedly cited statistics about job losses and unemployment rates among women.
That tactic seems to be working. According to the AP/GfK poll, women favor Romney over Obama on handling the economy, 49 percent to 45 percent; that is a stark change from Obama's 56-40 lead a month ago.
Obama retained a 55 to 41 percent advantage when respondents were asked which candidate would make better decisions on women's issues. The president has continued to assail Romney on this front, noting that the Republican nominee has sought to end government funding for Planned Parenthood and tying Romney to a Republican Senate candidate, Richard Mourdock of Indiana, who is facing a firestorm after saying pregnancies resulting from rape are "something God intended to happen."