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Obama: Women 'not an interest group,' 'shouldn't be treated that way'

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The president leads Romney by 9 percent overall in 12 key swing states, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll released this week, and the difference is almost entirely due to the gender gap. Romney holds a 1 percent lead among men, while Obama leads by 18 percent among women.

Democrats made a play for women voters in the aftermath of the February controversy over contraception, arguing that Republicans are waging a “war on women” in ads and fundraising pitches.

At the time, Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, shot back that “women care about jobs,” not the peripheral issues, which Republicans say are intended as a distraction from the president’s record.

The White House has responded in kind.

On Friday, the White House Council on Women and Girls released a report on “the importance of restoring the economic security for the middle class and creating an economy that’s built to last for America’s women.”

The report was released in conjunction with a White House Forum on Women in the Economy, complete with high-profile panelists, such as MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski.

Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett started off the event, which was also attended by National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling and included breakout sessions with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

Speaking to an enthusiastic and predominantly female crowd, the president gave his opening remarks flanked by women business leaders from across the country.

“I want to make sure that every agency across my administration considers the needs of women and girls in every decision they make,” Obama said. “There’s been a lot of talk about women and women’s issues lately, as there should be, but I think the conversation has been oversimplified. Women are not some monolithic voting bloc, women are not an interest group, you shouldn’t be treated that way. Women are over half of this country and this workforce.”

The report highlights the administration’s efforts to “increase opportunity for American Women at every stage of their lives,” and focuses on economic issues, citing an increase in Pell Grants and Small Business Administration loans for women, as well as programs designed to steer women into the more lucrative fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

At a campaign event at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Thursday night, the first achievement the president discussed — before getting into the auto industry turnaround, the Affordable Care Act, ending the war in Iraq and repealing "Don’t ask, don’t tell" — was his equal-pay initiative for women.

“Change is the first legislation that I signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Act, that has a very simple principle,” the president said. “Women should get paid an equal day’s pay for an equal day’s work, and our daughters should be treated just like our sons when it comes to the workplace.”

Fore more on Obama's focus on women, click here.