DENVER (AP) — President Barack Obama’s push to sell women on his health care overhaul is playing out in key battleground states like Colorado, where moderate women could be the key to his re-election.
Obama’s campaign has stepped up its sales pitch nationwide as his administration’s signature achievement heads to a legal challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Obama supporters put on events Friday marking the second anniversary of the health law. Events included a forum on women’s health featuring a law student thrust into the center of the debate.
Several hundred women watched a video with a swelling soundtrack and the message, “I am a mother, a leader, a daughter, a fighter. I am a woman. … And I will not be denied.”
A few blocks away, protesters gathered outside the state Capitol at the same time to decry parts of the law. “Our freedoms are just systematically being stripped away,” said conservative Susan Sutherland, of Thornton.
The issue is especially important in suburbs like Lakewood, where moderate women voters have made the difference in close Colorado elections.
In 2008, women in Colorado supported Obama at about the same rate female voters nationwide did, 56 percent, according to exit polls. This time, Obama needs to shore up support among women and increase it if he plans to return to office.
To do that, Obama’s re-election team has cranked up outreach to female voters this month. They’ve sent mailers to suburban women talking up the health law’s expansion of preventive women’s care, such as mammograms and cervical cancer screenings, and rolled out websites aimed at helping women find what the health law means to them.
Progressive groups aligned with the president have pitched in, too. An advocacy group called Know Your Care brought law student Sandra Fluke, the woman made famous when talk show host Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” for wanting contraception coverage, to Friday’s panel to talk up the law.
The Obama campaign also enlisted nurses to help sell the law.
A handful of nurses and other volunteers took to their cellphones last week in the Denver suburb of Lakewood to call voters and talk up the health care overhaul. The volunteers were targeting elderly women.
Holding up a sheet of talking points about the health law, campaign field director Tami Parker told about a dozen volunteers that the health care law faces a Supreme Court challenge next week.
“We need to talk about how the American Care Act helps women, especially elderly women,” Parker said. The talking points ended with an argument in bold: “Some politicians want to take away these new benefits, and put insurance companies back in charge.”
One of the volunteers was Cindy Lay, a retired hospital ancillary staff member who said Obama’s health care proposal is the reason she worked the phones for the president in 2008 and why she will again this year. Lay’s mother died in the 1970s of uterine cancer.
“She couldn’t get insurance because they wouldn’t cover her, she had a pre-existing condition,” said Lay, he voice cracking with emotion. “She died in the emergency room where I worked. I vowed then that I would work for whoever would try to get care for everybody.”
It’s a personal sales pitch that could resonate with crucial swing female voters.
Floyd Ciruli, a nonpartisan Colorado pollster, said the public remains lukewarm about the health law and unsure what it does. He said Obama’s outreach to Colorado women serves two purposes — selling the health overhaul to the people who make most health decisions for the households and shoring up support among women.
“He does, indeed, believe it’s the key to what looks like a difficult election,” Ciruli said.
Recent national polling suggests Obama is gaining among women. An Associated Press-GfK poll conducted last month showed his approval rating had risen 10 percentage points among women since December. The poll also showed that women approve more strongly of the way the president is handling the economy.
The Denver suburbs promise to be an especially intense battle. Jefferson County was once a Republican stronghold, but Obama edged Republican presidential candidate John McCain in 2008 with less than 54 percent of the vote.
The Obama campaign is counting on volunteers like Lakewood retiree Anita McIntyre to stay ahead in Jefferson. The former insurance agent was working the phones arguing that Republicans are a threat to women’s health care.
“I’m very passionate about this law and women’s rights,” McIntyre said.
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