Steven Senne, Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney pauses while speaking on the roof of an office building in Harrisburg, Pa., Thursday, April 5, 2012.

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney is honing his pitch to female voters, and many Republican activists say it's about time.

He's acknowledging the gender gap that has favored Democrats since 1980, referring in speeches to single moms in poverty.

Romney says he's got work to do to make sure women understand how his economic plan would mean a better future for their families. He says Democrats have succeeded so far in mischaracterizing the GOP's plans as a "war on women."

Women are perhaps the most critical group of voters because they comprise a majority of the electorate.

Women split between the parties in 2010, but this year polls show they heavily favor President Barack Obama. Romney would have to win about 40 percent of the women's vote to win the presidency.