Donald Lambro

The USA TODAY/Gallup poll numbers "show that Mitt Romney leads Obama by 50 percent to 46 percent among likely voters in the swing states." Women, who previously supported the president by lopsided margins, were now narrowly divided 49 percent for Obama and 48 percent for Romney.

"That makes women, especially blue-collar 'waitress moms' whose families have been hard-hit by the nation's economic woes, the quintessential swing voters in 2012's close race," Page writes.

So while the network news and cable shows still persist in spreading the myth that Obama retains a major lead among women, the pollsters who know better paint a very different picture.

"In every poll, we've seen a major surge among women in favorability for Romney" since his strong performance in the first debate, said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake.

Lake believes the changed views among women about Romney could be "a precursor to movement" toward him. "It opens them up to take a second look, and that's the danger for Obama."

Now, in the wake of Tuesday's debate, an increasingly desperate Obama campaign is trying to make an issue out of Romney's story that as governor he asked aides to provide more women candidates for top positions in his administration. Pretty soon, he said, he received "binders full of women."

"I've got to tell you, we don't have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women," Obama said while campaigning in Iowa. CNN tried to cook up a head of steam on the issue Wednesday, but it quickly fell flat on its face, as Romney has escalated his attacks on the president's abysmal record on women in Obama's jobless, poverty-stricken economy.

Romney's strongest attack line was delivered forcefully in the second debate: "There are 3.5 million more women living in poverty today than when the president took office. We don't have to live like this."

"This is a presidency that has not helped America's women, and as I go across the country and ask women, 'What can I do to help?' what they speak about day in and day out is, 'Help me find a good job, or a good job for my spouse,'" Romney said in Ohio Wednesday

"That's what the women of America are concerned about. And the answers are coming back from us and not from Barack Obama," he said.

As for Romney's record on hiring women when he was governor of Massachusetts, here's what his running mate and lieutenant governor Kerry Healey said this week:

"When Mitt Romney talks about women, when he says he believes that we can do any job a man can do, I know from experience that he's speaking from the heart," she said in a statement. "Of the 20 top positions in the Romney administration, 10 of them were filled by women, more than any other state in the nation."

The worst mistake you can make in a campaign is to talk down to any group of voters, underestimate them or pander to them. Obama's top campaign men -- the highest posts are all males -- thought they could easily lock up the women's vote on a single issue.

But they've learned to their regret that women have the same concerns as everyone else in our country right now, and the same hope: to put a man in the Oval Office who knows how to get America working again.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.