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Obama, seizing on 'binders full of women,' aims to edge out Romney

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President Barack Obama greets supporters after speaking during a campaign event at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio on Wednesday.



A day after the second presidential debate, which included a robust discussion about women's healthcare and equal pay, President Barack Obama aimed to build momentum with women voters as he campaigned in key battleground states on Wednesday.

During a stop in Mount Vernon, Iowa, Obama seized on Mitt Romney’s widely panned “binders full of women” comment, to suggest his Republican opponent is out of touch: “I’ve got to tell you, we don’t have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women, ready to learn and teach in these fields right now,” the president told a crowd of supporters.

During the Tuesday night debate, Romney said that while he was governor of Massachusetts, he asked women’s groups to help him find qualified female applicants for his cabinet. Those groups then brought him “binders full of women,” he said. The phrase immediately touched off a social media storm on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.

The Obama campaign hopes to capitalize on the "binders" comment and other issues related to women, believing they can erode some of the inroads Romney may have made with that voting bloc. The latest USA Today Gallup Poll showed Romney and Obama in a tie among women in battleground states. The latest NBC News/WSJ poll showed the president with a double-digit lead among women in Ohio, Florida and Virginia.

While on the campaign trail Wednesday, Obama knocked Romney on fair pay, arguing that Romney has yet to clarify where he stands on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which makes it easier for women to sue employers for pay discrimination. The president also hammered Romney for supporting the so-called Blunt amendment, which would allow employers to deny women access to contraceptives based on religious beliefs.

During the debate, Romney said the president misrepresents his position on women’s access to healthcare.

“I’d just note that I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not," Romney said. "I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.”

On Wednesday, Kerry Healey, Romney’s former lieutenant governor, appeared on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports to defend the former Massachusetts governor: “This whole discussion about contraception and binders of women is a distraction form the Obama administration’s failure on women’s issues generally.”

When Mitchell asked Healey if employer-subsidized contraceptives are a “pocketbook issue” for women, Healey dodged the question.

“One of the core freedoms that we have as people here in America is our religious freedom. And we cannot infringe on that," she said.

Romney campaign advisor Kerry Healy talks about Mitt Romney's stance on women's issues and whether Tuesday's debate performance will convince women to vote for him.

The Romney campaign has worked to portray him as moderate on women’s issues. On Wednesday, the campaign released a new ad featuring a female Obama supporter who says straight to camera: "Those ads saying Mitt Romney would ban all abortions and contraception seemed a bit extreme. So I looked into it. Turns out, Romney doesn't oppose contraception at all. In fact, he thinks abortion should be an option in cases of rape, incest or to save a mother's life."

The ad is correct that Romney supports abortion in cases of rape and incest. But the GOP candidate has also said that he supports ending federal funding to Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive health care services including abortions.

Obama campaign aides say they will continue to highlight the differences between the president and his Republican challenger on women’s issues – crucial, given that in 2008, women made up 53 percent of voters.

From tramping through cornfields to munching ice cream cones to holding babies – the time-honored traditions of the campaign trail leave President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney looking surprisingly alike.