Romney and Obama compete for women's votes in Ohio
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Could women be the key to winning the presidency? With less than a week to go before election day in the United States, President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney are back on the campaign trail. And in Ohio, the swing state that could decide everything, the Romney campaign is pushing for women's votes, with his wife, Ann, playing a prominent role in rallies. Romney needs these votes: a poll on Wednesday showed that nationwide, women favour Obama by seven points.
One voter Romney can definitely count on is Mary Leavitt.
Open the door to her shop in the state's capital, Columbus, and you are greeted with patriotic music. Inside, it's a world of flags: the Stars and Stripes, the Ohio state flag, University of Ohio pennants - even a little French flag, among the flags of the world.
"I'm the Flag Lady!" she says.
Indeed, that's her, and the name of her store, which hosted the launch of 'Women for Mitt' earlier this year, a group of Ohio Republican women throwing their support behind the presidential candidate.
A red Romney button pinned to her sweater, an American flag scarf tied around her neck, the 76-year-old says she's a lifelong Republican supporter.
"I've been involved all these years. I've lead the pledge of allegiance at the national conventions," she says proudly.
She is convinced Romney, as a businessman, will help small business owners like her. As for his stance on women's issues like abortion and contraception, she's circumspect:
"I think if you're for Romney, he has the principles that I have. So I wouldn't even consider President Obama," she says, referring to the candidates' stances on abortion.
Romney is running on a pro-life platform. In 2002 he declared himself pro-choice when running for the governorship of Massachusetts but he has since shifted towards a more hardline approach taken by the majority of his party.
Jaime Miracles, the policy director for NARAL Pro Choice Ohio, says Republicans have been pushing hard to pass pro-life legislation across the US, and that has galvanized many pro-choice voters.
"Since the Republican takeover of January of 2011, we have seen an astronomical increase in the number of restrictions," she explains, giving as an example the push in Congress to remove funding for Planned Parenthood, a group of health clinics providing healthcare - and abortions - across the country.
The Ohio state legislature, she says, is one of the most extreme, with several groups trying to pass legislation that would ban abortion, even in the case of rape or incest.
"We've seen a whole host of things across our state, and it really has woken a lot of women up in Ohio to the fact that this is a fight here," says Miracles.
Her group and others are now pushing these pro-choice women to vote on election day for the candidates they have endorsed, many of whom are Democrats, including Obama.
Back at the flag store, Flag Lady Mary Leavitt trusts that Romney will be good for women.
"I look at him and how much he loves his wife and how good he is to her. He's got something in him: he's going to listen to women. And I believe that he's not going to shut the doors on them," she says.
His wife will be in town on Thursday, perhaps hoping that women will listen to her. Ann Romney is campaigning for her husband in the capital today, after a stop near Cincinnati on Wednesday.
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