'Women Are Not An Interest Group,' Obama Says

(Image Credit: Charles Dharapak/AP photo)

As the fight to woo female voters in 2012 intensifies, President Obama today argued that women should not be relegated to a political interest group, and he highlighted the crucial contributions women make to the economy.

"There's been a lot of talk about women and women's issues lately, as there should be. But I do think that the conversation has been oversimplified," the president said at a White House forum on women and the economy, two key issues in the 2012 campaign. "Women are not some monolithic bloc. Women are not an interest group. You shouldn't be treated that way. Women are over half this country and its workforce."

The administration's decision to zero in on women's issues comes as the gender gap between the president and GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney is widening. A recent USA Today/Gallup poll shows the president with an 18-point lead over Romney among female voters in the top 12 swing states.

"These issues are more than just a matter of policy. And when we talk about these issues that primarily impact women, we've got to realize that they are not just women's issues, they are family issues, they are economic issues, they are growth issues, they are issues about American competitiveness. They are issues that impact all of us," the president said.

Obama defended his record on issues related to women and vowed to stand up for them when it comes to fair pay, health care and education. The White House also released a new report today touting the steps the administration has taken to boost the role women play in the economy and help them gain economic security.

The battle over women voters ratcheted up Thursday when the president's campaign seized on comments from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus disputing the idea that the GOP was waging a "war on women."

"If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars, and mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we have problems with caterpillars," Priebus told Bloomberg's Al Hunt in an interview. "The fact of the matter is it's a fiction and this started a war against the Vatican that this president pursued. He still hasn't answered Archbishop Dolan's issues with Obama world and Obamacare, so I think that's the first issue."

Obama's Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter pounced. "Reince Priebus' comparison of Republican attempts to limit women's access to mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, and contraception to a 'war on caterpillars' shows how little regard leading Republicans, including Mitt Romney, have for women's health," she said in a written statement.

"Women are already abandoning the Republican Party in droves because of their antiquated positions on women's health and out-of-touch policies on the middle class. Reince Priebus' comments today only reinforce why women simply cannot trust Mitt Romney or other leading Republicans to stand up for them," she said.