Campaigning in Wisconsin yesterday, Mitt Romney seemed well aware of the recent polling trend. "We have work to do," the Republican said, "to make sure we take our message to the women of America."
The available evidence, however, suggests American women have already heard that message, and they're not especially impressed.
A new USA Today/Gallup poll shows President Obama leading Romney among registered voters, 49% to 45%, and while that margin is clearly narrow, it's also the president's largest lead in the 2012 race thus far. Arguably more interesting, however, is Obama's edge in the nation's 12 most competitive swing states, and the gender gap fueling the president's advantage.
President Obama has opened the first significant lead of the 2012 campaign in the nation's dozen top battleground states, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, boosted by a huge shift of women to his side.
In the fifth Swing States survey taken since last fall, Obama leads Republican front-runner Mitt Romney 51%-42% among registered voters just a month after the president had trailed him by two percentage points.
Here's a chart I put together, showing the Obama-vs-Romney matchup in these swing states (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginiam and Wisconsin), going back over the last several months.
Maddow Blog chart based on Gallup data
Note, however, that the boost in the president's standing isn't just a natural evolution, caused by an improving economy. As USA Today's article explained, "The biggest change came among women under 50." Consider this stunning shift: since mid-February, Obama's lead over Romney among women under the age of 50 has gone from 5 points to 30 points, which has helped turn the president's modest deficit against Romney into a healthy lead.
Overall, Romney leads Obama among all men by one point, while Obama leads Romney among all women by 18 points. As a point of reference, in the 2008 election, Obama beat McCain among women by 12 points.
I won't pretend to be a master political strategist, but I'll go out on a limb here and argue that trying to restrict contraception access, mandating medically-unnecessary ultrasounds, vowing to get rid of Planned Parenthood, and enabling Rush Limbaugh may not have been the smartest election-year strategy for the GOP.