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Natalie Portman backs Obama, appeals to women voters in Las Vegas

TAMPA, Fla. – If actress Natalie Portman had the chance to address the Republican National Convention, she would chastise the GOP for playing politics and spending too much time opposing President Barack Obama instead of focusing on fixing the country’s problems.

"I think the thing that is most upsetting in the past four years is how partisan they’ve been in blocking Obama’s reforms," Portman said Saturday in a telephone interview. "All of us should be putting our country first."

Portman was speaking from Las Vegas, where she helped the Obama campaign kick off the first in a series of events across the country to appeal to women voters – and to make the case against GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Portman spoke to more than 300 women gathered inside the Historic Fifth Street School auditorium, sharing the stage with White House advisers Valerie Jarrett and Cecilia Munoz. Billed as the "Women Vote 2012 Summit," it was the first stop on a "Romney-Ryan: Wrong for Women" tour.

Portman, the Oscar-winning star of the ballet movie "Black Swan," said she campaigned in Nevada for Obama for the first time because energizing women will help the president win re-election.

"Nevada is a battleground state, and the women are really going to decide this election," she said.

Obama enjoys far more support among women than Romney, who’s favored by men.

In making the case for Obama, Portman noted the first bill he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to ensure equal pay for women.

She also praised his health care reform law that offers women free preventive care with no insurance deductibles for everything from contraception to checkups.

Children also can no longer be denied health care because of pre-existing conditions under the new health care law, said Portman, the mother of a 1-year-old son.

Asked if she really believed Romney and Ryan would turn back the clock on women’s health care and equal rights, Portman said, "That’s what they’re saying they want to do."

She noted the two Republicans don’t want to fund Planned Parenthood, for example, and she criticized Romney and Ryan for wanting to erode "our right to choose," referring to abortion.

"We would go back to the days where being pregnant is a pre-existing condition," she said.

The Obama campaign said it would hold similar women’s events throughout the week in Philadelphia, Richmond, Va.; Raleigh, N.C.; Cleveland, Manchester, N.H.; Milwaukee and Tampa, the GOP convention city.

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