New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte pushed back this morning against the growing narrative that Mitt Romney will lose the female vote in November:

Speaking on MSNBC, Ayotte, a Romney backer, said that women voters are highly concerned with the economy which would play to Mitt Romney’s strengths given his background in business.

“I think that women voters very much care about the state of the economy,” Ayotte said. …

“I think that we’re a long way from this general election and polls right now aren’t going to dictate where we are in November,” Ayotte added. “So polls go up, polls go down and you have to bear in mind we’ve been in a tough primary fight and I think that as we shore up and I think that he’s now the sure winner of the nomination he’s going to have a much more ability to focus on the difference between he and president Obama.”

Ayotte said that the gap was partially because of Romney’s focus thus far of winning the Republican primary.

“Part of this gap is a reflection of where we are in the primary and now it’s going to turn around very much,” Ayotte said.

Ayotte’s comments come on the heels of a USA Today/Gallup poll that showed Obama with a swing-state lead over Romney — a lead very much propelled by the shifting loyalties of women. That poll prompted Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to crow that women will win the 2012 election for Obama. Priorities USA adviser Paul Begala picked up the theme with a piece today that warns that “for Mitt Romney, November may be the cruelest month.” Romney’s “rightward lurch,” Begala suggests, will cost Romney with women, Latinos and seniors.

That’s the conventional wisdom, but Ayotte’s comments illustrate that it can be countered with an equally conventional idea: This election — still — will be about the economy, and Romney will be able to appeal to men and women alike on that issue. In her MSNBC interview, Ayotte also defended the Paul Ryan budget, noting that a platform to cut spending and the deficit resonated with her constituents when she ran for Senate so she has no reason to think it wouldn’t resonate with them now.

While I appreciate Ayotte’s message discipline in this instance, I still don’t think Mitt Romney lost women so much as Barack Obama gained them. He gained them by bringing up controversial issues and by personalizing them. His repeated mentions of Malia and Sasha, his personal phone call to Sandra Fluke, his tender comments about Trayvon Martin — he’s made an emotional appeal to women that is completely disconnected to his policies. The key is to personalize the GOP position on the same controversial issues. Let’s trot out our own Sandra Fluke, the college gal who won’t be able to afford to buy books because she’s having to pay for her peers’ contraception …

Of course, even if the GOP nominee succeeds at personalizing his platform, he still can’t let Obama off the hook for his negligence on the deficit and debt — and that is Ayotte’s primary point here. The president has done whatever he can to distract the American public from his lack of a plan to reform entitlements. The GOP nominee needs to refocus the electorate on the president’s lack of leadership.