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'A woman who. ...': Mitt Romney's stories court females

By Philip Elliott

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, May 22 2012 1:31 p.m. MDT

FILE - In this May 2, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks in Chantilly, Va. Romney's courtship of female voters in his speeches sounds a bit like a movie casting call: Woman Whose Husband Took an Upholstery Class. Woman Who Is Back in College to Dodge Her Student Loans. Woman Who Owns Duplexes. Romney's campaign won't identify these women, making it impossible to check on his accounts. But they're serving an important role as Romney looks to narrow the advantage President Barack Obama has with women.

Jae C. Hong, File, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mitt Romney's courtship of female voters in his typical campaign speech sounds a bit like a movie's casting call.

Woman Whose Husband Took an Upholstery Class. Woman Who Is Going Back To College. Woman Who Owns Duplexes.

Romney's campaign won't identify these women, making it impossible to check the accuracy of the Republican presidential candidate's accounts. It's unclear whether they even know of their cameos in Romney's campaign.

But they're serving an important role as he looks to narrow the advantage President Barack Obama has with female voters.

The latest Associated Press-GfK poll found women favor Obama by 54 percent to 39 percent — largely in line with the 2008 "gender gap" that helped him win the White House.

With women making up roughly 52 percent of the electorate, Romney needs to gain ground with these voters to have a better shot at winning the White House. Less than six months before the election, polls show it's a competitive race overall.

Women historically tilt toward Democrats. And this spring's national debate over access to contraception hasn't helped GOP candidates.

Romney's advisers are aware of the hurdle, and the campaign is working to overcome it.

Ann Romney has taken on a prominent role in the campaign. She's almost always by her husband's side in an attempt to soften — critics say humanize — the hard-edged former business executive.

And Romney, himself, has started highlighting women's stories of economic success — or hardship — in the speech he delivers once or more a day at campaign appearances.

He often starts by telling audiences about some of the women he meets when he holds private meetings with voters before larger public events. The tight-lipped campaign has repeatedly refused to allow reporters to attend most of those small gatherings or provide lists of attendees, leaving it to Romney, himself, to fill in the blanks.

"In some of the towns that I go to, I ask to get a group of women business owners, and I meet with them. I have them describe their experiences," Romney told supporters at a fundraiser here last week.

A look at some of the women Romney says he has met during his presidential bid:

WOMAN WHOSE HUSBAND TOOK UPHOLSTERY CLASS

Romney often recounts the story of one industrious woman whose husband lost his job and decided to take an upholstering class.

"I thought, 'That's a strange class to take,'" Romney said as he described the exchange.

The woman apparently thought so, too. Then she looked around and found there weren't many upholsterers in her area. It turned out that her husband was embarking on a new career — and she was, too. The woman started her own upholstery business and put her husband — and 40 others — to work.

"I thought that was pretty impressive," Romney said.

WOMAN WHOSE HUSBAND DRAWS PICTURES

There's also a Hispanic woman he said he'd met who went to work — and found a job that matched her skill set — because her husband's job didn't pay very well.

"Her husband is a caricature artist," Romney explained to one audience. "It's hard to make a great living out of just being a caricature artist. He does caricatures at county fairs and so forth."

The woman, he said, decided not to leave the bread-winning to him alone.

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