Does Romney have a women problem? Or just a general election problem?

Updated

Even the morning after Mitt Romney’s latest decisive primary wins, his struggles with women voters were in the spotlight on Morning Joe again.

Appearing as a guest, Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, a Republican and strong Romney backer, said women voters are worried about the same economic issues – she named gas prices and the deficit – as everyone else. “They’re really concerned that we are basically robbing the next generation when it comes to the debt,” Ayotte said.

And Ayotte denied that Romney had been hurt by the recent controversy over contraception, noting that in the USA Today/Gallup poll out this week, women ranked contraception last among their concerns, and most didn’t know Romney’s or President Obama’s stance on the issue.

But Newsweek/Daily Beast editor-in-chief Tina Brown disagreed, suggesting – as many polls suggest – that the brouhaha tarnished the Republican brand as a whole, and that Romney’s been unable to escape from that. “I don’t think he ever expected to be part of a party that’s attacking contraception,” Brown said.

And although Romney didn’t lead what Brown called the “jihad” on birth control, he didn’t do enough to distance himself from the more retrograde elements of his own party, either. As Brown noted, when Rush Limbaugh called a Georgetown Law school student a “prostitute” for pushing for wider access to birth control, Romney offered a milquetoast condemnation of Limbaugh. “He should have said: ‘That was a disgraceful way to speak about a women,’” Brown said. “And I think women would have found something they could resonate with in that.”

Still, for all the efforts to get to the bottom of Romney’s struggles with the ladies so far, it’s worth pointing out that there may not be much to explain. Democrats consistently do better than Republicans among women voters, just as the reverse is true among men. For instance, in the 2008 election, Obama beat John McCain by 7 points overall, and 13 among women. That USA Today/Gallup poll this week showed Obama leading Romney overall by 9, and by 18 among women.  So given Obama’s overall lead, the margin among women isn’t too far outside what pollsters would expect.

In other words, Team Romney might be better-advised to worry less about how he’s doing with women, and more about how he’s doing with general election voters as a whole. And now that the nomination fight looks to be all but over, you can bet that’s what they’ll be doing.

Does Romney have a women problem? Or just a general election problem?

Updated