(CNN) – With the election only two weeks away, both President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney are giving strong attention to the critical women's vote, and a CNN panel with CNN's Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley on Sunday's "State of the Union" looked at how both candidates were faring with women.
Referring to a recent Gallup poll showing Obama with only a one-point lead among likely swing-state female voters, Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington said that Romney had "neutralized" the so-called gender-gap that Republican candidates usually have.
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Rogers attributed this to the Romney campaign's message on the economy and jobs, and that, she said, Obama's policies haven't worked for women. She also pointed to Romney's performance during the debates and his record as governor of Massachusetts as factors.
When presented with another Gallup poll showing that abortion was the top issue among swing state women voters, Rogers conceded that abortion was a major issue for women, but also said that women were not single-issue voters and that they also cared about the economy and government debt. Rodgers predicted that Romney would actually win the women's vote in the election.
Democratic Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland disagreed, saying that women are "crystallizing what this election is about," and predicted that women would support Obama based on his record, citing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act on equal pay for women and his support for women's health through access to contraception and mammograms. Romney, said Edwards, had not expressed his support for helping to get equal pay and for women's access to contraception. However, she did agree with Rogers that women focused on other issues as well.
Joining Rogers and Edwards on the panel were CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash and Washington Post Political Correspondent Dan Balz.
Bash said that the Gallup poll was an outlier, but that Obama's lead with women has shrunk. She pointed out that women, in addition to voting more than men, tend to be late deciders, which was why both campaigns were trying to appeal to women in an almost "over-the-top" way.
Balz agreed that the poll was an outlier, saying the question wasn't whether Obama would win the women's vote, which Balz said was likely based on historical demographic voting patterns, but by how much. Balz also thought the first presidential debate helped Romney's appeal to women. However, Balz thought that the Obama campaign's ads on women's issues have been effective, citing a focus group with woman voters he attended in Northern Virginia.
The panel also previewed Monday's final presidential debate, which will focus exclusively on foreign policy, including the debate's possible effect on female voters. Although foreign policy has not been the major focus of the campaign, Bash thought the debate would still be important, and had been told by the Romney campaign that they would use the debate to show Romney's leadership abilities in order to appeal to women. Romney, said Bash, wants to show that he can be Commander-in-Chief.
Rogers said she believed that Romney would do very well at the debate, saying he would show his leadership on foreign policy and on problem solving, which would appeal to women. Rogers also mentioned Romney's commitment to bipartisanship, citing his work with a Democratic legislature as governor of Massachusetts.
Edwards said she believed that Obama would talk about his "impressive (foreign policy) record," and show his "understanding of the state of the world," citing the killing of Osama bin Laden, ending the Iraq War, and winding down the war in Afghanistan. She also thought that voters would believe that Obama's stable foreign policy would allow the country to "get our economic house in order" and focus on investing in America rather than aboard.
Balz thought that the candidates would show a "different demeanor" than at the townhall debate, and that voters would be looking at the candidates' "strength, calmness, (and) temperament."
Bash said that Romney, as the challenger to an incumbent president, had more to lose in the debate than Obama. Pointing to Romney's "binders full of women" comment at the last debate, Bash said that Romney also had to avoid statements that take away from his message.