The only question for Republicans is: Which candidate can win states that Mitt Romney lost?
Start with the fact that, before any vote is cast on Election Day, the Democrats have already won between 90 and 98 percent of the black vote and 60 to 75 percent of the Hispanic and Asian vote. Unless Republicans run the table on the white vote, they lose.
If there's still hope, it lies with Trump and only Trump. Donald Trump will do better with black and Hispanic voters than any other Republican. But it's with white voters that he really opens up the electoral map.
A Republican Party that wasn't intent on committing suicide would know that. But Stuart Stevens, the guy who lost a winnable presidential election in 2012, says it's impossible for Republicans to get one more white vote -- and the media are trying to convince the GOP that he's right.
Stevens says Romney tapped out every last white voter and still lost, so he says Republicans are looking for "the Lost Tribes of the Amazon" hoping to win more white votes: "In 1980, Ronald Reagan won 56 percent of white voters and won a landslide victory of 44 states. In 2012, Mitt Romney won 59 percent of whites and lost with 24 states."
Apparently, no one's told Stevens about the 50-state Electoral College. The national white vote is irrelevant. Presidential elections are won by winning states. (Only someone who got his ass kicked running an eminently electable candidate might not know this.)
Excluding third parties and breaking it down to a two-man race, Mitt Romney won 88 percent of the white vote in Mississippi, but only 40 percent of the white vote in Massachusetts. What sense does it make to talk about his national percentage of the white vote with disparities like that?
Romney lost the white vote to Obama in five crucial swing states: Maine (42 percent of the white vote), Minnesota (47 percent), New Hampshire (48 percent), Iowa (48 percent) and Wisconsin (49 percent). He only narrowly beat Obama's white vote in other important swing states -- Illinois (51 percent), Colorado (52 percent), Michigan (53 percent), Ohio (54 percent) and Pennsylvania (54 percent).
Increasing the white vote in these states gives Trump any number of paths to victory.
If Trump wins only the same states as Romney, but adds Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois -- where Romney's white vote was below his national average -- Trump wins with 280 electoral votes. (Romney wasn't an ideal candidate in the industrial Midwest.)
Trump could lose any one of those states and make up for it by winning Minnesota and Wisconsin -- where Romney actually lost the white vote. Or he could lose two of those states but add victories in places outside the Rust Belt, where Romney's white vote was also below average, such as Colorado, Iowa, Maine and New Hampshire. (In 1992, Ross Perot came in second in Maine, beating George Bush.)
I haven't even mentioned Florida, where Trump recently trounced Stuart Stevens' dream candidate, Marco Rubio, a sitting senator -- and a Cuban! -- in a 20-point rout. Republican primary voters outnumbered Democratic primary voters in that election by more than half a million votes.
If Trump wins Florida, he needs to win only two or three of the 10 states where Romney either lost the white vote outright or won a smaller percentage of it than he did nationally.
Stevens' analysis assumes that there will be no new voters -- and, again, there isn't a mammal on the North American landmass who knows less about winning presidential elections than Stuart Stevens.
It's as if we're only allowed to divvy up the pile of voters from 2012. Unless you voted in 2012, you can't vote in 2016! Use it or lose it, buddy.
That's not how it works.
Trump is saying he'll bring in lots of new people, as he has throughout the primaries. In the Florida GOP primary, for example, Trump got nearly half a million more votes than Romney did in 2012 -- about half a million new people voted. Trump may be wrong, but it's insane to say that it's impossible for him to bring out new voters.
What's impossible is for any Republican candidate, other than Trump, to win a single state Romney lost. Ted Cruz's corny speaking style is creepy to anyone who doesn't already agree with everything he says. He's the less likable, more hard-edged version of Romney. Every other Republican is, one way or another, a less attractive version of Romney.
Maybe 50 years of Third World immigration means it's too late, and even Trump can't win. But it's an absolute certainty that any other Republican will lose.