The math here is brutal and eye-opening. If Obama in 2012 wins the same percentage of the combined black, Asian and Hispanic vote that he won in 2008 (82 percent), then in order to beat him the GOP candidate would need to win an unimaginable 65 percent of all white voters -- whose numbers include such stalwart Democratic constituencies as gays, atheists, Jews and union members.
The 65 percent threshold represents a far higher percentage than Ronald Reagan won in his landslide against Jimmy Carter in 1980, or even his history-making 49-state re-election-sweep against Walter Mondale in '84.
Since white voters won't comprise larger portions of the electorate in future races, and since no Republican could compile a big enough white majority to win the election on those voters alone, that leaves only one possible path for GOP victory: more competitive performance among Hispanic, African-American and Asian citizens.
Fortunately, recent history demonstrates that such competition is possible. In 2004, the exit polls showed that Bush earned 44 percent of both Latino and Asian voters, and 11 percent of the black vote. This represents a huge advantage over the sorry performance of McCain.
Running against Obama, no Republican could have won a big percentage of the African-American community, but if McCain had merely won the same percentage as Bush four years before, he would have drawn 1.2 million more black votes for the GOP ticket -- an obviously meaningful difference in any close election.
Winning an electoral majority doesn't require capturing, or even splitting, every ethnic group, but no candidate can prevail if he (or she) gets overwhelmed among all nonwhite voters. In this context, the GOP doesn't need to win with each of the 33 black Republicans in current congressional contests, or even with most of them.
But if any of them carry their districts in November, it will help change the GOP image as a whites-only political organization and rejuvenate the once-vibrant party of Lincoln and Reagan that is still struggling against marginalization and irrelevance.