The protracted Republican presidential primary race is wrapping up, leaving Mitt Romney poised to claim victory. But even with a win all but assured, that doesn’t mean it is smooth sailing for the presumptive nominee.

The protracted Republican presidential primary race is wrapping up, leaving Mitt Romney poised to claim victory. But even with a win all but assured, that doesn’t mean it is smooth sailing for the presumptive nominee.


Instead, the former Massachusetts governor will have a much bigger battle on his hands this fall. And in this fight, President Barack Obama is the one with the advantage.


According to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll conducted in 12 swing states — Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin — Obama boasts a 51-42 lead over Romney in the general election.


While that may not seem insurmountable in and of itself, when one takes a closer look at the breakdown of those voters the difficulty of closing that gap becomes more apparent.


That’s because one critical constituency is credited with providing the incumbent Democrat with such a commanding edge: women. Men are about evenly split between Obama and Romney, but women favor the president by 18 percentage points. Those numbers are even more telling when examined alongside polling data taken in mid-February, when just under half of women under 50 supported Obama.


Of course that uptick in support for Obama is hardly surprising, given that the Republican Party began waging a war on women in recent months. It does, however, mean women’s issues will play a prominent role in the presidential campaign season.


And that could spell trouble for Romney, who has made a series of missteps when it comes to weighing in on issues such as birth control, Planned Parenthood and abortion. In fact, his inconsistent comments have caused such a stir in the past that any time a question related to a women’s issue arises on the campaign trail he appears incapable of even expressing his own viewpoint, preferring to defer to his wife Ann.


For example, when asked during campaign stop in Middleton, Wis., last week about the contraceptives controversy Romney said, “I wish Ann were here ... to answer that question in particular.”


Obama, meanwhile, seems to have a much firmer grasp of the issues facing female voters. Friday, the president hosted a conference on women and the economy. He used the opportunity to highlight some of his administration’s accomplishments on women’s issues — including equal pay, health care reform, getting more girls into science and math classes and workplace flexibility.


But, he noted, the issues women care about most affect everyone. “When we talk about these issues that primarily impact women, we’ve got to realize they are not just women’s issues. They are family issues, they are economic issues, they are growth issues, they are issues about American competitiveness,” Obama said.


Romney, too, spoke of the importance of economic issues to women last week, but even then he once again cited his wife, telling the Newspaper Association of America, “She reports to me regularly that the issue women care about most is the economy, and getting good jobs for their kids and for themselves.”


Don’t get me wrong. I am all for consulting experts, and I firmly believe it is essential to have strong female voices speaking out on behalf of women. However, being the leader of the free world means one must be able to address issues facing all Americans — regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation — equally.


If Romney can only form an opinion on an issue from within his own demographic, he has no business running for president of anything. But I guess his campaign staffers can always shake the Etch-A-Sketch and craft yet another new image for their not-so-fearless leader before November.


Amy Gehrt may be reached at agehrt@pekintimes.com. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the newspaper.