(CNN) - With attention shifting to the presidential general election after a series of primary wins from Republican Mitt Romney, several voting blocs are emerging as key to victory in November.
In an interview that aired Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," Democratic strategist Mark Penn and Republican pollster Linda DiVall said groups that carried electoral influence in past elections - independents, women and Latinos - would remain essential this time around. Reacting to a recent USA Today/ Gallup poll showing Romney trailing Obama among independents in certain swing states, Penn said the GOP primary has left Romney wounded.
"I think Romney through the primaries has been beaten up by the others, seen as removed from the middle-class, average voter," Penn told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. "He has trouble with women now, with Latinos. Boy, I think he's entering the general election now kind of a totally beaten-up candidate and this poll is a reflection of that."
DiVall, stressing the campaign was still in its early stages, said it was "not atypical in a very competitive Republican primary, that our nominee tends to go down."
Women voters, among whom Romney also trailed in the USA Today Gallup poll, are seeing a candidate who represents an overly conservative party, Penn argued.
"Romney has failed to distinguish himself from the pack," he said. "I think when you had the dust-up about contraception, I think women said 'Whoa, wait a minute here. This party, this Republican party and whoever is the nominee, is going to be driven by an agenda that's socially way too conservative for me in these times.' And I think that's shifted a lot of voters."
DiVall agreed the GOP was "inept" in its handling of the debate over whether private employers should be required to provide health insurance coverage for contraception, but added a shift in focus could help Republicans attract women voters.
"If you look at what happened in 2010, the Republicans were very competitive and in fact, won the vote with women voters," DiVall said, referring to the midterm elections. "So, I think there's an important lesson here. When we get the focus back on the economy and the focus on President Obama's record, things change very dramatically with the women's vote."
Blocs of women voters in past elections - "soccer moms" and "security moms" - will be replaced this cycle with more economy-minded voters.
DiVall said "Medicare grandmas," who are focused on jobs and economic prosperity for their children and grandchildren, and "Wall Street blues women," working women who worry about their family's economic well being, will impact the vote.
Latino voters, who are on target to cast ballots in record numbers in November, favored Obama to Romney 68% to 23% in a Pew Hispanic Center poll taken in November 2011. Penn chalked the deficit up to the former Massachusetts governor's conservative immigration platform.
"What happened here is that Romney, who has found himself with moderate positions on a lot of issues, took rather harsh and conservative positions on immigration," Penn said. "And so I think quite the opposite from where President George Bush was, where his immigration position seemed more moderate, Romney's now put him in a more isolating component of that."
DiVall said the GOP could make inroads by appealing to other issues Latino voters find important, like education.
"They are very entrepreneurial oriented," she said. "They are very family oriented. They place a high emphasis on education. There's no reason why the Republican Party and its candidates can't do a better job of appealing to them."
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