TAMPA, Fla. — A scratchy-voiced President Barack Obama powered through a sleepless drive to get his supporters to vote Thursday and planned to set an example by becoming the first president to cast his own ballot ahead of time.
With a new Associated Press-GfK poll showing that Republican Mitt Romney has erased Obama's 16-point advantage among women, the president tried to keep a GOP abortion controversy alive. The risers behind him stacked with female supporters, Obama made a veiled reference to Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's comment that pregnancies resulting from rape are "something God intended."
"As we saw again this week, I don't think any politician in Washington, most of whom are male, should be making health care decisions for women," Obama said. "Women can make those decisions themselves."
It was the president's first mention of Mourdock's comment at a rally, but Obama said Wednesday night on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" that "rape is rape." His campaign also has been intensifying its criticism of Romney for refusing to pull his support for Mourdock, even though the Republican presidential nominee said he disagrees with Mourdock's comment.
Beyond the statement from an aide, Romney and his aides have tried to avoid the subject. While picking up breakfast at a downtown Cincinnati diner Thursday morning, Romney refused to answer repeated questions about Mourdock's comment and whether he would call for Mourdock to take down a TV ad Romney filmed for him earlier this week.
Ignoring questions from reporters standing a few feet away, Romney instead posed for pictures with kitchen staff and greeted surprised diners during the brief stop at the First Watch cafe.
Romney's campaign reached out to women by sending Ann Romney on daytime's "Rachael Ray" show, where she prepared her meatloaf cakes recipe and took cameras along on a trip to Costco to shop in bulk for family gatherings. Mrs. Romney said that, with 30 mouths to feed, her family always eats buffet-style and that "Mitt is often at the front of the line."