Analysis: Women pivotal in campaign 2012

Posted at 9:26 PM, Apr 11, 2012

(CNN) — Ladies have seen their share of political attention this season, and they may have men – specifically white men – to thank.

Recent polling shows President Barack Obama with a double-digit lead over Romney among women voters, an edge which some Democrats attribute to a GOP ‘war on women.’

Obama and expected Republican nominee Mitt Romney have each been appealing to women voters, with the president’s reelection campaign looking at a ceiling of support among white males.

He lost that voting bloc in 2008 to GOP candidate John McCain, 53% to 41% in CNN exit polls, though President Obama’s standing was above historical levels of Democratic support among white male voters.

During his time in office, CNN polls have shown the President’s support among white men falling. Excepting short-lived bursts of approval post-inauguration and after the killing of Osama Bin Laden, his support among white men hasn’t risen above 38%, which he hit in June of 2010. In general his approval among this group has hovered between 36%, noted in an August 2011 survey, and 37%, which he scored in December 2011.

History shows the President could win reelection with white male support at that level. In 1992, Bill Clinton won with 37% of the white male vote; in 1996, Clinton won reelection with 38% of that bloc.

But Clinton benefited from other factors: in 1992, Clinton won 41% among white women, though Ross Perot’s candidacy played havoc with the totals. In 1996 – when Perot’s appeal had diminished – President Clinton won 48% of white women.

With his current support among white male voters, President Obama would need to win white women by a comparable margin. In 2008, he received the support of 46% of white women voters, while McCain scored 53%.

The Obama team may try to make up the difference with other groups, as well. In an appeal to Hispanic voters, they’re working to portray Romney as an anti-immigrant candidate; they will try to maximize turnout among African American voters; and could benefit from registering and turning out young voters, especially those who were too young to vote in 2008.

Turnout among young voters, however, can be unreliable on Election Day.

By far the biggest pool of voters — and the most reliable to turn out on Election Day — are women. So ladies, your moment in the spotlight is not up: expect to hear a lot more of the my-policy-is-better-than-yours between now and November.

Jessica Yellin

CNN Chief White House Correspondent