MOUNT VERNON, Iowa — Top aides to President Barack Obama called last night's exchange on women's issues pivotal — in the debate, and perhaps, the election.
Obama senior advisor David Plouffe and traveling press secretary Jen Psaki spoke with reporters before boarding a plane to Iowa following the debate, criticizing Romney's claim that he wasn't against any woman having access to contraception.
"He basically told tens of millions of Americans that he didn’t support legislation that would allow employers to make contraceptive decisions for female employers," Plouffe said, saying he expects the issue to take on "increased importance." "He was for it. It was as black and white as something can be."
Romney expressed support for the "Blunt Amendment" which would have granted employers exemptions from all mandates — including a mandate that employer provided insurance cover contraceptives — if the employer had a moral or religious objection.
"And never mind that the rest of the time he spent talking about women’s issues were a grumbled explanation of how he tried to find a qualified woman and that shows he was fighting for women," Psaki said, alluding to Romney's now infamous "Binders of Women" comment. "I don’t think women at home watched that and thought that’s the guy who’s going to fight for me in the White House."
The politics of the exchange is clear, Plouffe said, noting that "there are more undecided women than men in all the battlegrounds," noting in particular suburban Colorado.
Plouffe added that the exchange burnished Romney's image as "severely conservative."
"On women’s health care, on Medicare, on tax policies, he’s “Me Too” with Congressional Republicans," he said. "He’s out of the mainstream."
"He’s more conservative than President Bush," Psaki added.
"To sum it up," she said. "The more we’re talking about women’s issues, women’s healthcare the differences between the candidates, the better it is for us, because we feel it’s a winning issue."