LITTLETON - Two years ago, when Sen. Michael Bennet narrowly defeated Republican Ken Buck in Colorado to survive the nation's Tea Party tidal wave, it was because he clobbered Buck with women voters.
Buck, who won a GOP primary over Jane Norton, was done in, in part, by a comment about Norton's "high heels" that enabled Democrats to pain him as "too extreme" for women and the state itself.
Now, with Colorado one of roughly eight swing states set to decide the race for the White House, President Obama's campaign is trying to replicate the "Bennet model", even focusing the president's entire speech here last Wednesday on women's health issues.
And Romney, with the help of Norton and other female supporters, is working hard to make his own appeal to women in Colorado and other states.
"He respects women," Norton told FOX31 Denver Friday at a Women for Mitt campaign kick-off event at Hudson Gardens. "I think that's why you're beginning to see the turnaround with women coming to the Romney campaign."
Poll show Obama leading Romney with female voters, including a Quinnipiac University survey released last week showing the president with a 51-43 edge.
Since March, when Rush Limbaugh ignited what Democrats call a "war on women" by labeled a law student who stood up for free access to birth control a "slut", Obama's campaign has been targeting women voters both by touting Obamacare and changes in women's health care and trying to define Romney's positions on women's health issues as "extreme."
At the Denver rally last Wednesday, Obama summoned Sandra Fluke, the law student herself, to introduce him.
"We have a choice between someone who has stood up for women's health and defended our access to affordable healthcare and a candidate that has outright promised to turn back the clock on women's health and women's rights," Fluke said.
During his own remarks, Obama pointed out that Romney has called to de-fund Planned Parenthood, repeal Obamacare and that he supported last spring's failed Personhood measure in Mississippi.
And at every recent Obama campaign press conference in Colorado, top female surrogates, including state Rep. Crisanta Duran and Sen. Betty Boyd, repeatedly remind the public about Romney's positions on those same issues.
"His positions are out of touch with women," Boyd said at an event in Lakewood Tuesday.
And an Obama campaign TV ad now running in Colorado, similar to those that ran against Buck in 2010, features women describing Romney's positions as "extreme" and reminiscent of the 1950s.
Republicans counter that Obama is raising those issues in an effort to divert attention from his own economic record.
"For him to talk about Planned Parenthood I think is natural, because he wants to move away from the real issues that people are concerned about," Norton said Friday. "This fictional war on women is really, what's happening is an assault on our ability to take care of our families and earn a decent income."
Norton headlined Friday's Women for Mitt event along with former Colorado First Lady Frances Owens and Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
Also attending: House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, state Rep. Kathleen Conti, former Speaker of the House Lola Spradley and former state Sen. Norma Anderson.
In Norton's view, women care about more than just so-called women's issues and have been disproportionately affected by the downturn in the economy.
"Under President Obama, the unemployment rate for women has gone from seven percent to 8.1 percent," Norton told the crowd of about 200 area women.
"Most women are here, like me, because they don't think they can withstand four more years of president Obama and his failed economic policies," she said.AlertMe