In reality, presidential election outcomes can almost never be attributed to a shift in a single demographic group. Likewise, most campaigns are decided by the popular vote, not the details of the Electoral College. For both reasons, journalists should keep their eye on the big picture. While forecasting models are hardly perfect, they have persuasively shown that presidential elections are shaped by fundamental factors like incumbency and the economy, which tend to move demographic groups roughly in parallel. Obama appears to be overperforming among women now, but campaigns tend to move voters toward the outcomes we’d expect given the fundamentals. The implication is that Romney’s standing among women is likely to recover somewhat. As I recently noted, campaign shocks to candidates’ standing in general election trial heats are largely transitory at this stage of the campaign (link requires subscription). Though the gender gap will persist, Republican women and GOP-leaning independents are likely to find reasons to return home after contraception leaves the news, Romney’s rivals stop attacking him, and the conventions remind them of their partisan loyalties.
In the end, the contraception controversy is a real policy issue with vastly more significant consequences than the Etch-a-Sketch gaffe. But like that episode, its impact on the presidential campaign will likely soon be forgotten.