President Obama didn’t call out Mitt Romney by name in a speech to a women group fundraiser in Washington Friday — but he brought back the Democratic “war on women” rhetoric in such a way that made the target clear.

      In stark and often direct terms, Obama painted the GOP as anti-women, and tied the party’s positions on women’s health across the country to its likely presidential nominee.

      “I’m always puzzled by this,” Obama said. “This is a party that says it prides itself on being rabidly anti-regulation. These are folks who claim to believe in freedom from government influence and meddling. But it doesn’t seem bother them when it comes to women’s health.”

      Pointing to GOP governors and legislatures across the country that have passed laws requiring ultrasounds before abortions, Obama said Republicans believe “women can’t be trusted to make their own decisions.”

      “It’s appalling,” Obama said, referring to a statement from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s (R), who defended his state’s mandatory ultrasound measure by suggesting women simply “close your eyes.” “It’s offensive and it’s out of touch,” Obama said.

      Corbett signed on as a Romney backer during the primaries, and Democrats have tried to play up the alliance ever since.

      Tying Romney to the Republicans in Congress and legislatures across the country is emerging as a go-to strategy for Obama.

      While Romney remained nameless throughout Obama’s speech, his policy stances did not.

      “When you say we should ‘get rid of’ Planned Parenthood, you’re not just talking about restricting women’s ability to make health care decisions, you’re talking about denying the preventative care like cancer screenings millions of women rely on,” Obama said. In a sort-of gaffe back in March, Romney said he’d “get rid of” Planned Parenthood — meaning he’d eliminate federal funding for the program and allow it to continue by relying only on private sourcing, a popular idea among Republicans.

      Obama also needled Romney for his equivocation on the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Romney has said he wouldn’t get rid of the law if elected, but has refused to say whether he would have signed it.

      Attacking that stance amounts to an easy lay-up for Obama.

      “Standing up for equal pay and equal work isn’t something I’ve got to ‘get back to you’ on,” he said. “It’s the first law that I signed.”

      Some Republicans believed that after Republicans briefly gained the upper hand in the tug-of-war over women when CNN contributor Hillary Rosen made a questionable comment about Ann Romney, some of the wind would be taken out of the sails of the so-called “war on women” attack Democrats have wielded since the 112th Congress took over. Obama’s speech Friday suggested he’s not afraid to keep the attacks dialed up to 11.

      2012, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney
      Evan McMorris-Santoro

      Evan McMorris-Santoro has covered politics for TPM since 2009. Before that, he was a reporter at National Journal’s Hotline covering election 2008. He started his career covering local politics at newspapers in TN and his native NC.

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