Women helped propel Barack Obama to the White House in 2008, but their flagging enthusiasm for him reflected in recent polls has created uncertainty about who will capture the female vote in Tuesday's election.
Four years ago, women voters supported Obama over Republican John McCain by 56 per cent to 43 per cent. Among men, the Democrat led McCain by just 49 per cent to 48 per cent.
But women's enthusiasm for Obama as president has slipped this year, making his road to re-election more difficult.
He is narrowly favoured to win the female vote, but in many national polls, the incumbent's lead over Republican Mitt Romney among likely women voters has dipped to single digits. Reuters/Ipsos polling data last week had it at nearly five percentage points. He trailed among likely male voters by about six points.
Republicans point to Romney's gains with women since his strong performance in the first presidential debate on Oct. 3.
Marguerite Hunsinger, 59, of Flagler Beach, Florida, who had been undecided, said the debate shifted her to Romney's camp.
"I'd been very, very skeptical about Romney," said Hunsinger, a self-described homemaker. "And I just thought he acted very presidential and capable, and he had answers that I agreed with more."
In contrast, she said Obama "was like asleep. ... It felt like he was just wasn't there."
Romney's camp accuses Democrats of condescending to women by overemphasizing issues like contraception when polls show men and women both care more about jobs and the economy.
Democrats note that Obama continues to hold significant leads among women in the decisive swing states and say the women's vote will help propel him to victory.
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