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Romney: The war on women has been waged by Obama's economic policies

In his first public event after Rick Santorum withdrew from the GOP race, Mitt Romney made a strong pitch for women voters who have turned sharply in favor of President Obama in recent weeks.

Speaking at a town hall in Wilmington, Del., Romney worked to flip the script on Democrats, who say Republicans have been waging a “war on women.”

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“There’s been some talk about a war on women,” Romney said. “The real war on women has been waged by the Obama administration’s failure on the economy.”

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 in ads and fundraising pitches that Republicans are waging a “war on women.”

Republicans call the messaging push a politically charged ploy to exploit the gender gap, and the Romney campaign is now trying to shift women’s focus to the economy.

“Do you know what percent of job losses in the Obama years have been casualties of women losing jobs as opposed to men?,” Romney said. “92.3 percent of the job losses during the Obama years have been women who lost those jobs. The real war on women has been the job losses as a result of the Obama economy.”

The figure comes from a Bureau of Labor Statistics report that says there are 740,000 few non-farm payroll jobs since Obama took office in 2009, and that 683,000 women lost jobs in that same time frame.

Romney briefly addressed Santorum's decision to suspend his campaign only hours earlier, saying the former Pennsylvania senator would “have an important role” in the party going forward.

“This has been a good day for me,” Romney said to applause. “Sen. Santorum has decided not to proceed with his campaign ... He has made an important contribution to the political process, has brought forth issues that he cares very deeply about and has been able to gather a great deal of public support and interest in those issues and in himself.”

Santorum didn’t mention Romney in his concession speech. Romney picked up a slew of endorsements in the immediate aftermath of Santorum’s withdrawal, and despite the continued presence of Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich in the race, Republicans and Democrats seem to be marking Tuesday as the official beginning of the 2012 general election.

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