(Updated 6:15 p.m.) HARTFORD — Flanked by women business owners at a printing shop on Main Street, Mitt Romney’s all female backdrop seemed to acknowledge what polls show —he needs to court more women voters.
In a recent ABC/Washington Post poll, President Obama led Romney by 19 points among women who vote.
As Republican elected officials and other dignitaries waited for Romney, his campaign staff distributed fliers titled “Women & the Obama Economy.” The flier stated that women account for 92.3 percent of the jobs lost under Obama.
Romney repeated the statistic during his more than 17-minute speech.
The former Massachusetts governor said he was upset when he heard the president say Republicans are waging a war on women. “The real war on women is being waged by the president’s failed economic policies,” Romney told the crowd.
But Politifact, the project of the Tampa Bay Times that seeks to find the truth in politicians’ statements, says the claim is “mostly false.” It says the numbers the Romney campaign are using to get to 92.3 percent are accurate, but the way they are being interpreted “ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.”
The project claims Romney started counting job loss from Obama’s first month in office and it took points off his claim because “One could reasonably argue that January 2009 employment figures are more a result of President George W. Bush’s policies, at least as far as any president can be blamed or credited for private-sector hiring.”
Romney agreed that when the president says he didn’t cause the recession he’s being truthful. However, “He just made it worse and made it last longer. And because it lasted longer, more and more women lost jobs,” Romney said.
Romney promised if he was elected he would get women “good jobs, rising incomes, and growing businesses.”
Romney, who has been criticized as being a little stiff on the campaign trail, was very relaxed and addressed the crowd without a jacket and a cordless microphone.
“These are real people, and real families being hurt by this president’s policies,” Romney said connecting with the standing room only crowd.
He seemed to be striking all the right notes, a day after former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum announced he was suspending his campaign, making him the party’s nominee.
In a conference call with the national media yesterday a Romney surrogate didn’t know where his candidate stood on equal-pay legislation signed into law by Obama in 2009. A Romney press secretary later told Talking Points Memo that he would not repeal the law.
Connecticut Democratic Party Chair Nancy DiNardo, who visited the venue Wednesday morning prior to Romney’s arrival, said that the comment doesn’t give Connecticut women “any confidence that Mitt Romney would stand up for them.”
DiNardo continued, “The Republican war on women in contraceptives and jobs and fair pay is abysmal. So naturally he’s going to try and win back votes.”
Prior to the rally in Hartford, Romney met privately with a handful of women business owners for about 30 minutes.
“There’s a recognition that what makes America the economic engine we are, is not government telling us how to live our lives,” Romney said. “Instead, it’s three people pursuing their own dreams in the way they think best.”
Personal responsibility and economic freedom are two principles Romney preached Wednesday. It’s a message that resonated with the women in the room, but Romney will need to reach many more women if he wants to close the gender gap.
Tom Foley, the former Ambassador to Ireland who ran for governor in 2010 and likely will run again in 2014, said there may be a gender gap now, but as election day approaches it narrows.
In a September 2010 poll, women backed Democrat Dannel Malloy 52-34 percent, while men backed Foley the Republican 49-38 percent. By November, the election was the closest in recent memory with Malloy beating Foley by just 6,404 votes.
Sen. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, said he thinks Romney will be effective in garnering women voters.
“Number one, he’s got the facts on his side,” Frantz said. “If you heard what he was saying today 92.3 percent of the jobs lost in the last three and a half years were lost by women.”
“He’s got an incredible secret weapon and her name is Ann Romney,” Frantz added.
Mrs. Romney will be the first female to headline the Prescott Bush fundraiser in Stamford on April 23, the day before the April 24 Republican presidential primary.
Frantz described both Romneys as very personable, something many people may not get to experience if they don’t attend the events like the one held Wednesday.
Frantz said Romney is good at retail politics.
Karen Brinker, who owns Alpha Graphics where the event was held Wednesday, said as an employer of 24 people and grandmother of 11 she’s concerned about the future and national debt the next generation is being asked to shoulder. That’s why she’s supporting Romney.
“What do you think Karen could we fit any more people in the room?” Romney joked as he joined her in front of the crowd.
Brinker shot back that if he gets elected they’ll expand.
But not everyone was happy Wednesday that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum had suspended his campaign Tuesday, making Romney the party’s nominee.
Chris O’Brien of Wolcott stood outside the event with a sign that said “Convince Me.”
However, none of the Romney supporters who struck up a conversation were able to convince him.
O’Brien said he was one 1,000 Santorum volunteers in the state and is waiting for his candidate to tell him what to do on April 24. Santorum’s name will still be on Connecticut’s ballot and, according to O’Brien, Santorum hasn’t released his delegates to Romney.
Many elected officials and Romney supporters said Wednesday that it was only a matter of time before the party unites behind Romney.