Vote on knife-edge as fate of Obama in women's hands
President Barack Obama has launched an all-out offensive to galvanise women voters, as polls show a near-historic "gender gap" between his and Mitt Romney's supporters, with only two weeks until election day.
After a bitter campaign that has highlighted America's deep ideological divide on social issues and abortion, polls show Mr Obama leading by nine percentage points among women, but trailing by nine among men.
The 18-point gap almost equals the widest since Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing abortion rights, and now puts women at the centre of Mr Obama's hopes of winning a second term this November.
As the two candidates went into last night's final televised debate in Florida, the race was a virtual statistical dead heat, with the president trailing Mr Romney by 0.7 points nationwide.
With it being so close, Democrats are highlighting what they say are the "stark choice" for women when choosing between the two parties.
Mr Obama's sharp decline in popularity among male voters since 2008 has also left him more dependent on women, who make up slightly more than half of the electorate.
Mr Romney, who once defended a woman's right to abortion, lurched to the Right on that and other social issues to placate core Republican activists during his party primary campaign.
In a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, last week, Mr Obama dispatched Bill Clinton and Bruce Springsteen, two males who attract disproportionate numbers of women, to rally their vote. "Any woman who votes Romney is voting against herself," said Vicky Cardamom, a 52-year-old lawyer. "His stance on reproductive rights is so backward I can't imagine a young woman supporting it."
Meanwhile, most countries would prefer to see Mr Obama re-elected as president rather than Mitt Romney, a global poll has found. The study, conducted on behalf of the BBC World Service, found that Mr Obama was seen as a stronger candidate by people in 20 of the 21 countries surveyed. (© Daily Telegraph, London)