LAMBRO: Obama adds votes by dividing

Attack strategy makes headway in battlegrounds

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President Obama’s entire campaign strategy is based on an age-old political trick: that he can overcome his weakness on the economy by changing the subject.

His strategists concluded more than a year ago that he was unlikely to win a second term based on his promise to restore the economy to full health and put tens of millions of long-unemployed Americans back to work.

So they fashioned a divisive campaign that was focused heavily on single-issue voters — women, for one, and the large Hispanic vote, for another — in a handful of critical battleground states he needs to clinch a second term.

The latest polls suggest this divide-and-conquer trickery seems to be working, at least for now.

Nowhere is this clearer than in Virginia, a key state Mitt Romney must win if he is to have any chance of beating Mr. Obama.

A new Washington Post poll found that Mr. Obama has “a 19-percentage-point lead (58 to 39) among female likely voters” in Virginia, while he is trailing Mr. Romney by 6 points among men. Mr. Obama’s significant advantage among women is the reason he leads his Republican rival in the state by 8 points.

Heading into this year’s election, Virginia was a tossup state where Obamacare was unpopular and the economy and jobs were the top issues. But the Obama campaign concluded it had little if any chance to persuade voters to change their minds on those issues. Instead, the campaign decided to play Machiavellian politics with an issue that didn’t make the top 10 concerns in voter surveys.

So, during late summer, it ran virtually nonstop ads attacking Mr. Romney for his opposition to abortion and taxpayer support of Planned Parenthood (which spent nearly $2 million on similar ads).

There were no ads to speak of that dealt with jobs and 8 percent-plus unemployment, or the declining economic growth rate that was barely moving. The ads were aimed entirely at painting Mr. Romney as someone who would strike down Roe v. Wade and make abortions illegal again.

You would have to look high and low to find remarks from Mr. Romney on this subject. Despite his pro-life stance, which remains the GOP’s long-held position, it’s not an issue he talks about in his stump speeches. Whatever signal that sends, it’s a subject that was missing from the 2012 election dialogue until the Obama campaign raised the issue for its own political gain.

It’s highly unlikely the high court is going to revisit Roe v. Wade. It remains the “settled law of the land,” Justice John G. Roberts Jr. testified in his Senate confirmation hearings.

Nevertheless, Mr. Obama’s pro-choice attack ad has proved effective, and not just in Virginia, but in other battleground states where he has pulled ahead of Mr. Romney or solidified his lead. This has had an impact down the ballot, too. The Washington Post’s Virginia survey now shows that for the first time, Democrat Tim Kaine is leading Republican George Allen in the Senate race, by 51 percent to 43 percent.

The newspaper reported Thursday that “Kaine appears to have a clear edge, helped by a growing lead among women.”

Can Mr. Romney overcome this growing gender gap in the seven remaining weeks in the campaign? It’s a daunting challenge, to be sure, worsened by the videotape of Mr. Romney telling a closed-door meeting of donors that 47 percent of Americans, who pay no federal income taxes, “believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.”

Worse, he seemed to write off this 47 percent of the electorate, saying, “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

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