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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Obama Says His Opponent Has a Case of \'Romnesia\'

President Obama greeted a group of female supporters after he spoke at a campaign rally at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., on Friday.Damon Winter/The New York TimesPresident Obama greeted supporters after he spoke at a campaign rally at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., on Friday.

FAIRFAX, VA. - Taking liberties with his opponent's last name, President Obama fired up a campaign rally here on Friday by blaming “Romnesia” for Mitt Romney's seemingly shifting positions on women's rights and other issues.

“Now, 18 days before the election, Mr. Severely Conservative wants you to think he was severely kidding about everything he said over the last year,” Mr. Obama said, before offering his admittedly nonexpert medica l opinion. “We got to name this condition that he's going though. I think it's called Romnesia.”

Mr. Obama's riff, before about 9,000 supporters at George Mason University, was just one part of a rally clearly focused to continue to appeal to women, a key demographic in this all-important swing state. After an introduction by Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, Mr. Obama emphasized in his remarks that he had proven himself the best candidate for women.

“When the next president and Congress could tip the balance of the highest court in the land in a way that turns back the clock for women and families for decades to come, you don't want someone who has to ask for binders of women,” Mr. Obama said, referring to Mr. Romney's remarks during Tuesday's presidential debate. “You want a president who has already appointed two unbelievable women to the Supreme Court.”

Mr. Romney's campaign responded quickly, issuing a statement by Barba ra Comstock, a Republican state lawmaker in Virginia.

“Women haven't forgotten how we've suffered over the last four years in the Obama economy with higher taxes, higher unemployment, and record levels of poverty,” Ms. Comstock said. “What is really frightening is that we know a second term for President Obama will bring devastating defense cuts that will cost Virginia over 130,000 jobs, more burdensome regulations and the biggest tax increase in history on our small businesses and families.”

Mr. Obama also criticized Mr. Romney for changing his positions on abortion, energy and other issues. Touting the benefits of his health care law, the president reassured the crowd that “Romnesia” is curable.

“If you come down with a case of Romnesia, and you can't seem to remember the policies that are still on your Web site, or the promises you've made over the six years you've been running for president, here's the good news: Obamacare covers pre-exist ing conditions.”

Along the line snaking through the campus, volunteers repeatedly urged supporters to sign up to help, waving forms and reminding everyone within earshot that Virginia is a battleground state this year. Highlighting that fact, this rally was Mr. Obama's 16th visit to Virginia in 2012.

Evelyn Wilson arrived more than three hours before the rally to claim her spot in the stadium on a cool, damp morning. Ms. Wilson, who traveled from nearby Reston, Va., with her husband to show her support for Mr. Obama, said she had been bombarded with robocalls, including the one that alerted her to this event.

Ms. Wilson, 69, said that this election could have major implications for women's rights among other important issues.

“A Republican win could set us back more than 60 years and reverse all the things we fought for and marched for,” Ms. Wilson said, citing the need to protect Roe v. Wade.

The fight for female voters intensified this w eek after the town-hall-style debate in New York, which included a question about equal pay for women that prompted a clash between the candidates over who could best serve women's needs.

That debate spilled onto the airwaves, with the Romney campaign immediately releasing an ad contending that Mr. Romney does not oppose contraception and believes abortion should be legal in cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother. The Obama campaign hit back against that argument, using a clip of Mr. Romney from a CNN debate in 2007 in which Mr. Romney said he would be “delighted” to sign a bill banning all abortions.

Michael D. Shear contributed reporting.