RENO, Nev. (AP) — In his bid to take Nevada, Mitt Romney made inroads among several voting groups that had been solidly behind President Barack Obama.
The Republican challenger claimed majority support among independents and even attracted a few black and Hispanic voters over to his ticket — but it didn't matter.
Romney lost Nevada in large part because of a double-digit gender gap that saw a majority of women voters break Democratic.
Exit poll results show the president took a comfortable lead among women in Nevada, highlighting a problem that some GOP strategists have been urging their party to address.
"Democrats were very successful at painting Republicans as anti-women," said Robin Reedy, chief of staff to former-Gov. Jim Gibbons, on KRNV-TV's "Nevada Newsmakers."
"We, as a state, and a state party, did not do our job very well," she said Wednesday.
Voters' attitudes about abortion also show the divide. Overall, Nevada voters oppose outlawing abortion by as much as a 2-to-1 margin, according to exit polling conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research. Only 1 in 10 said it should be outlawed in all cases. And 2 in 10 said it should be outlawed in most cases.
Democrats criticized Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, over the issue, saying they supported plans to make abortion illegal. And nationally, Republicans lost traction as high-profile candidates made comments that put them outside of the mainstream, including a Senate candidate in Indiana who said pregnancy as a result of rape was "something God intended to happen."
The news in Nevada, however, wasn't all bad.
Romney performed better than Republican Sen. John McCain did in 2008 on a number of fronts.
The former Massachusetts governor drew support from independents and third party voters, turning the table on an area that Obama had on his side four years ago, according to exit polling.
Romney failed to carry Washoe County but lost it by less than 7,000 votes, compared with the 23,000-vote edge Obama commanded in becoming the first Democrat since 1964 to win in the Reno-Sparks area.
And though Obama maintained his overwhelming lead among black and Hispanic voters, Romney did better with those groups than McCain. His increased support, however, came from men in those demographics. Romney's showing among women in those groups was almost identical to McCain's.
The gender gap is proving too significant to overcome. While blacks and Hispanics combine to make up about one-fourth of Nevada voters, women represent about half of the people at the polls — and they've been voting Democrat in statewide races since 2004, when exit polls showed about 6 of 10 women backing John Kerry.