By Samuel P. Jacobs
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In the final week of the U.S. presidential campaign, one advertisement was on heavy rotation in the swing state of Wisconsin. It featured three women named Connie, Kim, and Anita who told viewers the reasons they were switching their support from President Barack Obama to Mitt Romney.
The Republican campaign hoped that women throughout America would follow the lead of that trio, but Obama was able to preserve his coalition of female voters en route to winning a second term on Tuesday.
Obama beat Romney 55 percent to 43 points among women, according to Reuters/Ipsos Election Day polling. That 12-point victory nearly matched Obama's 13-point win among female voters over Republican John McCain in 2008.
Romney did no better among women, who outvoted their male counterparts by 6 percent, than McCain did four years ago.
One key to Obama's success: social issues. Nearly two times as many women as men rank matters like abortion and same-sex marriage as the most important issue that determined their vote, according to polling data.
From the Democrats' convention to Obama's stump speeches to the campaign's commercials, the president's team put issues like pay equality and women's healthcare at the center of its argument for his reelection.
They denounced Romney for shifting positions on abortion and contraceptive rights since his 2002 election as governor of Democratic-leaning Massachusetts and for failing to support Obama-backed legislation easing the way for women to sue over workplace pay discrimination.
At the polls in Maplewood, New Jersey, on Tuesday, Rose Rios, 40, a registered Republican who twice voted for George W. Bush, said she was voting for Obama because she thought Romney held extreme social views.
"The Republicans now are so far right. They do not represent the views of ... independent women," Rios said.
Women ranked healthcare as among their top concerns, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling data, a view shared by Brandi Bettinghouse, a 26-year-old nurse from Reno, Nevada, who said she switched her vote to Obama in part because of her support of his healthcare policies.
"I didn't vote for him the last time, but I just looked at the issues and felt like I agreed more with him," she said.
While Democrats charged that the Republicans were waging a "war on women," Romney replied that the true attack on female voters was an economic one, citing the difficult economic conditions that hit all voters.
Reuters/Ipsos polling found that the economy was the most important issue among women.
In Coral Gables, Florida, Mariel Nolasco, a 56-year-old part-time FedEx worker who voted for Obama in 2008, said she backed Romney on the strength of his business record and fear of rising taxes on businesses.
"Business leaders are the ones who create wealth," she said.
More women, however, were forgiving of the economic conditions that confronted Obama when he entered office and were willing to give him a shot at a second term.
"I think there was so much damage done before he got into office," said Brandon Fox, a 48-year-old Democrat, voting in Richmond, Virginia. "Of course it's going to be a long process to rebuild."
(Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New Jersey; Thomas Browne in Florida; Editing by Karey Wutkowski and Paul Simao)
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