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Democrats Ratchet Up the War for Women's Votes in Charlotte

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call

Democrats in Charlotte, N.C., this week focused an aggressive counterpunch to the GOP's concerted efforts to reach out to female voters and shrink the gender gap in a messaging war that could determine the outcome of the election.

While the GOP convention's appeal to women focused on the economy and especially on humanizing their nominee, Mitt Romney, Democrats brought speaker after speaker - from equal-pay advocate Lilly Ledbetter to Georgetown student and activist Sandra Fluke to the head of Planned Parenthood to, perhaps most effectively, first lady Michelle Obama - to hammer home a whole host of issues they believe will resonate, including contraception coverage, abortion rights, and the 2010 health care law's ban on discrimination against women in health care premiums.

"I think the counterpunch has been tremendous and landed four square," Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) said. Kaptur said that while Republicans led by Mitt and Ann Romney talked extensively about their love for women and moms of all kinds - the nominee's speech mentioned the word "mom" a dozen times - women will care more about the policies they didn't talk about.

"They were shallow on substance and long on rhetoric," she asserted.

"They spent so much time trying to make Mitt Romney into a human, they never talked about the policies that a human would make," quipped Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). Murray said the economy isn't the only thing women care about.

"Absolutely they care about the economy. They want a job, but they want to have control over their own health care. They don't want their boss to have control," she said.

It's not enough to say "I like women, vote for me," she said.

Fluke - the student who became a national celebrity when Rush Limbaugh called her a "slut" after she sought to testify before Congress in favor of contraception coverage this year - evoked the most visceral reactions from partisans in both parties when she spoke Wednesday night.

Fluke's story had inspired many of the delegates in the hall - with a popular "Sluts VOTE" button brought by to the convention by a member of the Illinois delegation to protest Limbaugh.

Fluke brought up the image of Republicans holding a male-only panel at a hearing on contraception earlier this year and said Romney had failed to stand up to Limbaugh.

"Your new president could be a man who stands by when a public figure tries to silence a private citizen with hateful slurs. Who won't stand up to the slurs, or to any of the extreme, bigoted voices in his own party," Fluke said.

Romney has seized on religious opposition to the mandate by the Catholic bishops and pushed the issue as a matter of freedom of religion instead.

Fluke went on to attack GOP-written state laws requiring ultrasounds before abortions, an attempt to "redefine rape," and the health care law's prohibition on charging men and women different rates for health insurance.

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