BERLIN Peer Steinbrueck, leading his centre-left Social Democrat (SPD) party into September's federal election against German Chancellor Angela Merkel, admitted that he has a problem with women voters and said he would not change to appeal to them.
"It may well be the case that I come across as too cerebral and not emotional enough for women between the age of 18 to their early 40s," he said in an interview with Bild am Sonntag newspaper published on Sunday.
"I'm not going to turn into 'Cuddly Peer' because of that. It wouldn't seem genuine in a role like that," he said.
Political analysts and pollsters say Steinbrueck's abrasive style has alienated women voters. He compounded his problems by failing to pick any women for team of four top advisers.
The SPD is about 10 points behind Merkel's Christian Democrats in most opinion polls ahead of the 2013 election.
An Emnid poll on Sunday in Bild am Sonntag showed the conservatives would win 38 percent in an election now while the SPD were at 29 percent. Steinbrueck hopes to form a centre-left coalition with the Greens, who scored 15 percent in the poll.
But the SPD-Greens coalition would fall short of winning a majority, as would Merkel's conservatives and their coalition partners, the Free Democrats (FDP). The FDP would win only 4 percent and fall below the 5 percent threshold needed for seats.
Steinbrueck also said he was confident the centre-left could oust Merkel even though Europe's largest economy is in good shape with unemployment falling and tax revenues rising.
"People see things are getting out of balance in this country," Steinbrueck said when asked why German voters should elect a new leader. "They want more 'we' and less 'me'. They want more social cohesion, they want more cooperation."
Steinbrueck said he would soon meet with leaders of the Greens to discuss a joint "SPD-Greens" campaign in 2013.
German parties traditionally campaign on their own but sometimes get a boost by joining others on a coalition ticket.
"We should meet to talk about it because our two parties want to rule together," Steinbrueck said.
(Editing by Louise Ireland)