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Is Rick Santorum facing a brewing 'women problem'?

Recent statements about women, and passages from his 2005 book, have put Rick Santorum on the defensive. Even within GOP ranks there are signs of a gender split.

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Santorum replied that he wasn't familiar with that quote from the book, and agreed that people should have equal opportunity to rise in the workplace – before punting on responsibility for the quote by saying that his wife, Karen, actually wrote that section. (He does not credit her in his acknowledgements as one of those "who assisted me in the writing of this book.”) When his wife gave up her career as a lawyer and nurse to have children, he told NBC's David Gregory, who also pressed him on the section, she "felt very much like society and those radical feminists that I was referring to were not affirming her choice."

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Add that to his strong stances on abortion and contraception (forget the recent flap about whether Catholic-affiliated organizations should be required to have health insurance that covers contraception – Santorum believes birth control "shouldn't even be in an insurance plan" of any type since it's "affordable"), and it's clear why some pundits are wondering about his ability to get votes from women in a general election.

Already, even among GOP ranks, there are signs of a gender split.

In a CNN poll released Tuesday, Santorum and Mitt Romney are essentially tied nationally. But who their supporters are differs significantly. Santorum's voters are more committed, more conservative, more blue-collar – and more male. Among Republican men, Santorum holds a 10-point edge, while Romney beats Santorum among Republican women by 9 points.

If Santorum gets the nomination, he may have an even tougher time convincing women who are independents that he believes in issues important to them.

"The book 'It Takes a Family' was written in response to Hillary Clinton's 'It Takes a Village' in the 1990s, and it was not generally taken by women's rights groups as a tome of affirmation," writes Politico's Maggie Haberman about the latest controversy. "And it's one of the reasons Santorum will keep facing questions about whether he can appeal to a key general election swing group."

IN PICTURES: Rick Santorum

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