Mr Romney's comments were immediately condemned by fellow Republicans, who will need support from those same voters to have any chance of eventually reclaiming the White House.
His gaffe was made in an all-too-familiar setting, as he addressed wealthy donors on a conference call, apparently unaware that reporters were also listening.
"The Obama campaign was following the old playbook of giving a lot of stuff to groups that they hoped they could get to vote for them," Mr Romney said, specifically listing "the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people".
He complained that for young people the "forgiveness of college-loan interest was a big gift", while Hispanics had been wooed with the promise that children of illegal immigrants would not be deported, and black voters were won over by "free healthcare".
He also said "free contraceptives were very big with college-aged women", as he explained why he lost the female vote. (© Daily Telegraph, London)