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NEW YORK - President Obama crisscrossed Manhattan for a series of targeted appeals Monday to a trio of key election-year constituencies: women, young people, and gay and lesbian supporters.

During a commencement address at Barnard College, a private women’s college, he urged the graduates to fight for their place at “the head of the table’’ and help lead a country still battered by economic woes toward brighter days.

He stated: “‘I believe that the women of this generation will help lead the way.’’

Later Monday, Obama was scheduled to headline his first fund-raiser specifically for gay and lesbian supporters since announcing his support for same-sex marriage last week. Democrats hope Obama’s politically risky embrace of gay marriage will reenergize supporters who had been frustrated by his previous assertions that his views on the issue were “evolving.’’

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Women, young people, and gay voters made up crucial voting blocs for Obama in the 2008 election. And with the president locked in a close race with Republican rival Mitt Romney, his campaign is focused on rallying support among those groups once again.

The president’s choice of Barnard as his first commencement address of the spring underscored the intense focus both candidates have placed on women. An Associated Press-GfK poll conducted earlier this month showed Obama with a sizable advantage over Romney with women voters, 54 percent to 39 percent. - ASSOCIATED PRESS

Obama’s marriage stance viewed as driven by politics

WASHINGTON - Most Americans suspect that President Obama was motivated by politics, not policy, when he declared his support for same-sex marriage, according to a poll released Monday, suggesting that the impact of his decision has been undercut by the unplanned way it became public.

Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed by The New York Times and CBS News said they thought Obama had made it “mostly for political reasons,’’ while 24 percent said it was “mostly because he thinks it is right.’’ Independents were more likely to attribute it to politics, with nearly half of Democrats agreeing.

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The results reinforce the concerns of White House aides and Democratic strategists who worried that the sequence of events leading up to the announcement made it look calculated rather than principled. Obama, who had said since late 2010 that his position on the issue was “evolving,’’ proclaimed his support for same-sex marriage only after Vice President Joe Biden did so first in a television interview.

The survey results made it clear that the president was wading into a divisive area of American life, one that may not top the nation’s priority list but still has the potential to hurt him at the margins in elections in November. About 4 in 10, or 38 percent, of Americans support same-sex marriage, while 24 percent favor civil unions short of formal marriage. Thirty-three percent oppose any form of legal recognition. When civil unions are eliminated as an option, opposition to same-sex marriage rises to 51 percent, compared with 42 percent support.

The nationwide poll is based on telephone interviews conducted May 11-13 with 615 adults. - NEW YORK TIMES

Romney silent on $2 billion loss at JPMorgan Chase

WASHINGTON - Mitt Romney says he wants to talk about the economy in this presidential campaign, including his call to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law. JPMorgan Chase’s $2 billion trading loss in risky transactions is not the sort of conversation he had in mind.

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So far, presumptive Republican nominee Romney has said little about the transaction that is roiling Wall Street and Washington, prompting an inquiry by the Federal Reserve, a call for a congressional investigation, and a demand by Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic Senate candidate in Massachusetts, that JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon resign from the board of the New York Federal Reserve.

“Any time you have a development that suggests businesses take unnecessary and unwise risks, you give ammunition to Democrats and cause problems for the Republican narrative,’’ said Stu Rothenberg, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.

“Romney will have to deal with it,’’ he added.

Romney, cofounder of Bain Capital, a private-equity firm, has spotlighted his vow to repeal the Dodd-Frank law that aims to strengthen financial regulations, calling it one of several overly burdensome laws backed by President Obama that costs jobs. Romney has not directly commented on the JP Morgan losses since Dimon disclosed them Thursday; he ignored a reporter’s shouted question about the matter at a rally in Charlotte, N.C., on Friday. - BLOOMBERG NEWS