In Ohio, Romney and Ryan target women voters

Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, made a direct appeal to female voters Saturday, telling supporters at an Ohio rally that, if elected, they would do more to help women in business.

"Just a word to the women entrepreneurs out there," Romney said at a campaign event in Powell, Ohio. "If we become president and vice president, we want to speak to you. We want to help you."

The presumptive Republican nominee told the crowd that women are "more likely" to start businesses than men and "need our help."

"I want to speak to the women of America who have dreams, who begin businesses in their homes, who begin businesses out in the marketplace, who are working in various enterprises and companies," Romney said. "I want you to be successful. Our campaign is about making it easier for entrepreneurs, women and men, to start businesses and to grow businesses."

Preceding his running mate on the stump, Ryan made a similar appeal.

"We want every American to achieve her potential," the Wisconsin congressman said.

Their outreach comes amid polls showing a major gender gap heading into November's election. A Gallup poll released Thursday found Romney with an 8-point lead over President Barack Obama among male voters. On the flip side, Obama leads Romney among women by 8 points.

The GOP's standing with women was surely not improved by the controversy that erupted over Rep. Todd Akin's suggestion that a woman could not become pregnant from "legitimate rape."

Both Romney and Ryan condemned the congressman's comments, and Akin, who is challenging Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill this fall, later apologized. But Democrats quickly moved to bring up the larger debate over abortion—an issue that Romney, who is anti-abortion, has tried to downplay in favor of building his campaign around jobs and the economy.

Romney aides privately worry the Akin controversy could hurt the GOP's larger effort to win over women this fall—especially suburban moms, who are considered a swing vote.

On the stump, Romney took his usual shots at Obama's handling of the economy. He told supporters that Obama had failed to create jobs and turn the economy around because his view on the economy "just doesn't square with the America you and I know."

At least 5,000 people turned out to see Romney and Ryan, in what was their first joint appearance in Ohio since Ryan was named to the GOP ticket. It was one of the largest and most energetic crowds Romney has attracted in Ohio—and more proof of why Romney aides walked back their plan of keeping the two candidates on a separate campaign track heading into the Republican National Convention in Tampa.