A new USA TODAY/Gallup poll of likely voters in 12 battleground states found women voters have propelled Mitt Romney to a five-point lead (51%-46%) over President Barack Obama.
Romney is tied with Obama with women (48%-48%) in the poll, closing what had been a double-digit gap. Romney also leads among men by 12 points (54%-42%). USA TODAY/Gallup polled 869 likely voters in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.
The poll was taken Oct. 5-11, which was before the vice presidential debate in which Vice President Joe Biden turned off many women voters with his often boorish antics and dismissive laughter.
“In every poll [since the first presidential debate], we’ve seen a major surge among women in favorability for Romney,” Democratic pollster Celinda Lake conceded to USA TODAY. “Women went into the debate actively disliking Romney, and they came out thinking he might understand their lives and might be able to get something done for them.”
In 2008, women supported Obama by 13 points, which is how Obama defeated McCain.
There is more good news for Romney in the poll. Women who support Romney are more enthusiastic about his candidacy:
Among women, more Romney supporters are extremely enthusiastic than Obama supporters, 46% versus 38%. Married women, who tend to vote Republican, are more enthusiastic than unmarried women, who tend to vote Democratic.
Romney pollster Neil Newhouse told the publication “women tend to be later decision-makers than men” and that is why the first debate could not have come at a more crucial time for Romney.
“The first debate had a significant impact on these voters as they watched it and Governor Romney appeared nothing like the candidate that was essentially a caricature in the advertising by the Obama campaign,” Newhouse said. “It’s these voters who began to realize that the picture being painted of him was not reality.”
Marge Joefreda, of Ohio, told USA Today she “pretty much decided” to vote for Romney after the first debate because she was “shocked at President Obama’s responses; I didn’t understand it at all.”
An Obama supporter, Karen Farrell, from Virginia, also conceded to the publication that Obama’s first debate performance was “perplexing” and Obama “didn’t bring his ‘A’ game.”
The poll found that women voters cared in particular about the deficit and the debt and by a nine-point margin (52%-43%), women voters felt Romney would “better handle the deficit and debt.”