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McDonnell reaches out to female voters

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Bob McDonnell reached out to women Tuesday as polls suggest female voters -- a constituency that once appeared to be tilting away from the Republican gubernatorial candidate -- are now split between the Republican and Democratic tickets.

McDonnell held a campaign rally in Vienna with Sheila Johnson, the multimillionaire BET co-founder and longtime Democratic supporter, appealing directly to potential crossover voters in Northern Virginia.

While reminding the small crowd of her support of Gov. Tim Kaine in 2005 and President Obama in 2008, Johnson said she wouldn't "let anyone intimidate me because I crossed party lines" by supporting McDonnell.

Johnson recently drew criticism for mocking McDonnell's opponent, Creigh Deeds, as having a stutter. She has since apologized.

Monday's rally comes days after Deeds held a handful of "women to women" canvassing events across Virginia. Just weeks ago, voters had signaled in a Washington Post poll that they better trusted Deeds to handle women's issues over McDonnell by a 10-point margin.

The gap was undoubtedly influenced by revelations of McDonnell's 1989 graduate school thesis that called working women detrimental to the family. Deeds has spent much of the campaign seeking to link the Republican candidate's thesis to his record as a lawmaker and state attorney general.

On Tuesday, a Rasmussen Reports poll suggested women were migrating back to McDonnell, showing female voters divided evenly between the two candidates. McDonnell held a 15-point lead among male voters and an overall seven-point lead.

With three weeks until the election, both candidates have been stepping up efforts to mobilize support for what is expected to be a modest turnout on Nov. 3. Deeds has pressed the attack on McDonnell's socially conservative views, suggesting at a debate Monday that the Republican favors wage discrimination between male and female employees, which McDonnell dismissed as bogus.

wflook@washingtonexaminer.com