For Second Debate, It’s Ladies Night

“13 points”

-- Barack Obama’s margin of victory among female voters in the 2008 election according to exit polls.

The Obama campaign is pooh-poohing the new USA Today/Gallup poll that shows a tie among female voters between President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Team Obama calls the poll an “extreme outlier” and suggests that the president still enjoys an advantage with women voters. But even if the Blue Team were still rocking the 8-point advantage with women that Obama’s pollsters suggest, it would still mean an Obama loss.

Obama doesn’t just need to win with women, he needs a blowout. Maybe not the 13 points of 2008, but pretty close.

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Here’s why. Obama won with male voters by a single point in 2008. He’s not going to come close this time. In fact, he is looking at a massive loss with men. The most recent FOX News poll shows Obama down 10 points with likely male voters.

The good news for Democrats is that they traditionally enjoy an advantage with female voters and female voters traditionally outnumber male voters. Women made up 53 percent of the electorate in 2008 exit polls and 52 percent in 2010.


But in 2010, women swung 8 points from Democrat to Republican, giving the GOP a rare 1-point advantage among female voters. The male swung 6 points, returning to a more typical Republican advantage in the dude vote.

The midterms were a Democratic wipeout of historic proportions, but even if Obama doubles John Kerry’s 2004 advantage of 3 points among women, he would have big trouble on his hands. Men look likely to vote for Romney at a higher level than George W. Bush’s 9-point advantage eight years ago, more than enough to offset the higher voting frequency of women.

The past two weeks have been a thoroughgoing disaster for Obama with women. First, Romney showed himself as a moderate problem solver in the first presidential debate. He talked about the federal debt – a key concern for conscientious moms – and he demonstrated presidential-style composure. Second, Vice President Joe Biden turned in a cringe-inducing performance in his showdown with Rep. Paul Ryan.

While the Democratic base may have thrilled to see the vice president in bully bulldozer mode, polls show that a lot of women found his aggressive behavior off-putting. Women have been shown to value compromise civil discourse and respectful campaigning more than men, and Biden showed neither.

Now, as Obama heads into tonight’s high-stakes town-hall debate, his campaign is promising that the president will be aggressive and take the fight to Romney – to block and reverse Romney’s surge. The promise from team Obama is that the president will act as a prosecutor tonight, attacking Romney’s record and character.

What a mistake that would be.

Obama has yet to fully make the case for his own re-election. He has not made a full defense of his biggest policy achievements: more than $1 trillion in stimulus measures and his 2010 health law. Neither has the president articulated a vision for his next four years that goes beyond a plea to stay the course and allow his policies to work.

Bill Clinton showed how it should be done in his convention speech, but Obama has so far failed to make his own case, trying instead to make the race a referendum on Romney’s character.

Moreover, Obama is at his worst when he is being contentious or argumentative. While his sullen performance two weeks ago was unattractive to voters, Obama the aggressive would be a disaster, especially given the format of tonight’s debate.

With women moving Romney’s way, Obama has to find a way to replicate some of his 2008 town-hall debate performance.

The key for Obama four years ago was to stand as an outsider who lamented the way Washington, including those in his own party, did business. He was particularly compelling when he talked about irresponsible spending and deficits as a problem of both parties in answer to a question from a female questioner.

He can’t do that now, but Obama has to show that after an acrimonious four years and with an agenda that is seen as too expensive and too liberal he is ready to work with Republicans to achieve some progress on key issues.

Romney, who excels at his own town-hall events, will certainly be doing that. He will be making a plea, mostly focused on the trillions added to the federal debt under Obama, to moms across America to give him the opportunity to find common ground with Democrats to reverse the deficit avalanche and revive the economy.

Most of the president’s outreach to women so far has centered on warning that Romney and the Republicans are radical on abortion and birth control. If the president tries that again tonight, it could be curtains for his re-election hopes.

With Romney there on stage, talking earnestly about the debt and the economy, if Obama tries to make Planned Parenthood a big deal it will likely confirm what a lot of women are thinking: That the president’s re-election bid is more about tearing down his rival than building up the country.


And Now, A Word From Charles

“They went after Romney's statement for three days.  An ambassador killed for the first time in 30 years, and that was the whole media analysis for three  days.  And they thought the media's not going to look into it.  We can ride this out until Election Day and after Election Day it doesn't matter.”

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”


Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET  at