REPUBLICANS are engaged in some public "soul-searching," which is what we usually call it when members of a defeated party explain that the party went wrong by not taking the advice they've been giving all along.
One of the most common arguments at the moment is that demography has become doom for Republicans. The party is worried primarily about three groups: Hispanics, women and young people.
To court Hispanics, many Republicans think they need to change their policies on immigration. For women, it's their approach to abortion and contraception. For young people, same-sex marriage.
While there is something to each of these arguments, Republicans are making a mistake by thinking about voters in these categories. The root of the party's electoral challenge isn't demographics: It's economics.
Call it the tyranny of the cross-tab: Republicans look at the polls that show a group voting against them, and then take the mental shortcut of assuming it's mainly because of some issue distinctive to that group. One result is to oversimplify reality: to obscure the facts that married women tend to vote Republican, for example, as do young evangelical Christians.
Race, sex and age influence but don't determine how people will vote - and the influence is often subtler than generally assumed.
Republican views on immigration, and the way they express those views, must play a role in how poorly Republicans do with Hispanics. Republicans haven't found a way to reassure conservative voters that the country will respect the rule of law without also making Hispanics think that the party is hostile to them.
A way out of this predicament doesn't immediately suggest itself.
Even if a solution were found, though, the growing number of Hispanic voters would continue to mean trouble for Republicans. Hispanics are disproportionately poor and uninsured. And like people of other races in similar situations, they tend to have views on economic policy that align with the Democrats.
In California, for example, Hispanics helped get Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increases approved on Election Day. A Republican Party that is associated with repealing Obama's health-care legislation - and not with any alternative plan to get people health insurance - is going to get trounced among these voters.
Public support for same-sex marriage has risen a lot, among young people especially, and the Republican Party will have to soften its opposition to it. Again, though, there is an economic dimension to the party's trouble.