It's been widely and justly repeated over the last few weeks that the protracted GOP presidential primary process hurt Mitt Romney's general election chances. An interesting panel at the Bipartisan Policy Center on the demographics of 2012 provided some data to back up that notion.
Ruy Teixeira, a progressive demographic expert with the Center for American Progress, among other places, pointed to a recent Pew poll that had President Obama leading among Hispanics by a 68-23 margin, which is a larger proportion than he won by in 2008. "I'm not saying Hispanics are gone in this election, there's plenty of time for Romney to try to readjust," he said. "But I do think some damage was probably done by the Republican primary process, and the not too friendly things that were said about immigrants and immigration reform by all the candidates, including Romney."
Teixeira was joined on the panel by Sean Trende, Real Clear Politics's senior elections analyst, who said that current demographic trends are going to force some changes on the GOP, including a softening of its stance on immigration. "There probably will be changes in the Republican stance on immigration," he said. "Certainly not this cycle with Mitt Romney and self-deportation—it sends chills up my spine every time says it." Hispanics' spines too.
The other group they particularly talked about was women. Teixeira picked up on something that National Journal's Ron Brownstein has pointed out repeatedly: that the driving force in the growing gender gap is the GOP taking a "nose dive" among college educated white women. "It does appear to have something to do with flaps in the Republican primary process," Teixeira said. "These things about abortion and contraception have not helped at all. And I do think there's a sort of hard edge to the Republican economic policy that really [doesn't] feel right to a lot of women voters." Trende said that polling shows little difference between men and women regarding issues like birth control but agreed that the economic message is hurting the GOP.
I assume he's right about the polls regarding things like birth control, but it seems to me it also becomes an issue of emphasis. Men and women might have the same views, but the issue has more personal salience for women than it does for me, so they are likely to react with more intensity on it.
In any case, it looks like Team Romney is keenly aware of the damage the primaries did with these groups.