WASHINGTON -- The Obama campaign made a coldly calculated decision early this year to go after the women's vote by attacking Mitt Romney on his right-to-life position.
They put together ads targeting women that focused solely on abortion and contraceptives. And throughout the summer they ran them nonstop in a massive ad buy that significantly enlarged Barack Obama's lead among women voters.
While polls showed women were concerned with many other issues, such as a brutally high unemployment rate, the weak economy, deepening deficits and debt, and other domestic problems, the Obama men on the campaign saw women as single-issue voters and treated them that way.
The ads did not run nationally, but were used primarily in key battleground states that will decide this election. Across the Potomac River in Virginia, those ads ran continually, as they did elsewhere. And they did their job for a while.
But what did Obama's ads tell us about how his campaign staff saw the women's vote, or more important, how they perceived women in general?
They were saying women weren't as concerned about other important political issues that make the top 10 list in the campaign polls; that they could be easily manipulated with frightening demagoguery suggesting Romney was going to make abortions illegal and, if given the chance, deny them access to contraceptives.
For the record, the former governor personally opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the mother is in danger. Though he thinks government should not be in the business of funding contraceptives, or forcing church groups and their institutions to provide them in their insurance policies when it violates their religious beliefs, as Obamacare would, Romney supports contraception.
But Obama's insulting, insensitive and, yes, even sexist ad strategy now appears to be a political miscalculation of huge proportions.
After the first game-changing presidential debate, many women began moving away from Obama after watching his pitiful performance.
They were drawn to Romney by his strong focus on the weak economy, the decline in full-time jobs, trillions in new debt, rising poverty, especially among women, and other issues that concern them a great deal more than the issue of contraceptives.
Here's what USA TODAY's Susan Page reported earlier this week in a front-page story on a Gallup poll that was headlined "Swing States poll: Women push Romney into lead": "Mitt Romney leads President Obama by four percentage points among likely voters in the nation's top battlegrounds, and he has growing enthusiasm among women to thank."