There was little mystery in the candidates’ concentration on women voters. An AP-GfK survey taken in mid-September, when Obama was leading in the opinion polls, found that 8 percent of all likely votes were women who were either undecided or said they might change their minds.
Polls since the first debate two weeks ago show gains for Romney among women voters, a shift that Obama can ill afford given the traditional Republican advantage among men.
Democrats rebutted Romney’s memory of the binders he received as the newly elected governor of Massachusetts in 2002.
On a conference call arranged by the Democratic National Committee, a former executive director of the Massachusetts Government Appointments Project said the group provided the resumes of women qualified for appointment unprompted. ‘‘To be perfectly clear, Mitt Romney did not request’’ them, said Jesse Mermell.
Romney quickly countered with a combination testimonial and fundraising appeal from Kerry Healey, who was his lieutenant governor in Massachusetts. She said he had named numerous women to his administration, adding, ‘‘He sought out our counsel, and he listened to our advice. We didn’t always agree, but we were always respected.’’
Vice President Joe Biden’s first stop of the day was in Greeley, Colo., where he mocked Romney on the same topic but in terms more pungent than Obama's. ‘‘What I can’t understand is how he’s gotten into this sort of 1950s time warp in terms of women,’’ Biden said. ‘‘The idea he had to go and ask where a qualified woman was. He just should have come to my house. He didn’t need a binder.’’
Republican Rep. Paul Ryan was in Berea, Ohio, where he said women were suffering under the economy as the end of Obama’s term nears. ‘‘Twenty-six million women are trapped in poverty today. That’s the highest rate in 17 years,’’ he said. ‘‘We need to get people back to work.’’
In a lighter moment, he stopped by the football practice facility of the Cleveland Browns and lamented missing out on hunting season this fall. ‘‘I've got this election thing going on,’’ he told Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas.
Associated Press writers Steve Peoples in Chesapeake, Va., Frank Eltman in Mineola, N.Y., Beth Fouhy in New York, Nicholas Riccardi in Greeley, Colo., John Seewer in Berea, Ohio, Ryan Foley in Mount Vernon, Iowa, and Matthew Daly and Kasie Hunt in Washington contributed to this story. Espo reported from Washington.