Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) said Sunday that Republicans "don't have a problem with women."
Hutchison appeared on CNN's "State of the Union," and host Candy Crowley challenged the Texas senator on that statement, pointing out that there's a big polling gap between Republicans and Democrats among women voters. Crowley earlier referenced a CNN poll of likely voters of both genders that found President Obama with a 30-point lead -- 60 percent to 30 percent -- over presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on who is more in touch with women voters.
"I think that women are looking at the issues they care about, which are jobs and economic prosperity," Hutchison replied, disagreeing with the poll's findings.
Debate over the so-called "War on Women" is back in full force after comments from Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) last week, who said in instances of "legitimate rape" abortion for a resulting pregnancy would not be necessary, because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Numerous Republicans, including Romney, condemned those comments and said Akin should quit the Senate race, but the Missouri Republican has remained adamant that he will stay in.
Democrats have used Akin's comments to attack Republicans for their views on abortion, pointing out that many Republicans oppose abortion even in cases of rape and incest, although Romney himself makes an exception in those cases.
In the past, Hutchison has said she is pro-choice but she also has voted to restrict abortion rights and now considers herself pro-life. On Sunday, she said Republicans shouldn't build the party around the issue of abortion.
"We shouldn't put a party around an issue that is so personal and also religious-based," Hutchison said. "I think we need to say, 'Here are our principles and we welcome you as a Republican. We can disagree on any number of issues, but if you want to be a Republican, we welcome you.' And I think we do."
She said later that Romney and his wife, Ann, will be able to appeal to women voters in part by discussing their family life.
"I think relating to the middle class ... this is a family who has raised five boys," Hutchison said. "They relate to what moms are facing all over this country. That's a hard job, and I think relating to the people, I think they're going to show that. Now that people are focused, I think Ann and Mitt Romney are exactly the kind of first family that we need."
CLARIFICATION: Hutchison spokesman Dean Pagani emailed over a statement on the senator's current view of abortion, saying she considers herself pro-life. The article has been updated to reflect that information.
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