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What do women voters want? Romney's 'gender gap' problem and what he plans to do about it

ImagesLast week in this blog, I asked readers what they'd like me to ask President Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney when they spoke to an editors gathering I attended in Washington. Despite some excellent suggestions, I never got to pose any of them to the president, who apparently took questions only from the Associated Press, whose annual meeting coincided with the lunch at which he spoke.

His likely Republican challenger, though, answered questions from the assembled editors and I managed to get one in.  (Ken Paulson, outgoing president of the American Society of News Editors, was the conduit for the questions, which had been submitted to him in advance by ASNE members.)

I wanted to know how Romney plans to deal with what might be called his woman problem -- the fact that polls show women in key swing states favoring Obama over Romney by 18 percentage points if the presidential race were to be held today.  That could be a make-or-break figure, given the candidates' dead heat among men.

Romney acknowledged the problem -- and then, for the most part, dodged the answer.  

"Our party has traditionally had a gender gap," he said.  But rather than explore why -- some pundits think it's because the GOP is on the attack against issues that matter to women, including reproductive rights -- he said that what women really care about is jobs and the economy.

Here's how he put it:

"My wife has the occasion, as you know, to campaign on her own and also with me, and she reports to me regularly that the issue women care about most is the economy, and getting good jobs for their kids and for themselves ... They are concerned about gasoline prices, the cost of getting to and from work, taking their kids to school or to practice and so forth after school."

The president, he said, is vulnerable on all those points.  

Here's a piece from Forbes on why women don't use their political muscle effectively. 

Reporter Dana Milbank's analysis from the Washington Post of the two ASNE speeches gives significant attention to the "gender gap" question.

And a report from the Tampa Bay Times describes Romney's problem and his game plan, so far.

It's a hot topic and one that is sure to develop as the campaign goes on.

(Photo from AP) 

Twitter: @SulliView