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Can GOP survive its 'minority problem'?

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But the convention floor was notably short on minority delegates – as made obvious by the Democratic convention's technicolored rainbow of an audience a week later. It's a portrait even conservative commentators have poked fun at, as when New York Times columnist David Brooks described the winter Olympics as "the second most Caucasian institution on earth, after the GOP."

And that is at the core of why Romney and the GOP aren't doing more to court minority voters for the November election. In short, say political watchers, they can't.

"They have a substantive problem," says Professor Lichtman. "To the extent they reach out substantively to minorities, they risk losing their base."

Since its founding in the 1850s, the Republican Party has relied on a base of white Protestant voters, says Lichtman. And though that served it well though the 19th and much of the 20th century, when Protestants composed the majority of voters, "That white Protestant majority has since disappeared," he writes in an Aug. 16 Newsweek article. "Fewer than 40 percent of all Americans today are white and Protestant." (Incidentally, this is also the first time in the history of the US that neither major party ticket includes a white Protestant nominee.)

In contrast, the Democratic Party has historically engaged minorities, starting with the New Deal coalition of Roman Catholics, Jews, blacks, Southern whites, lower-income voters, and labor unions, which helped the Democratic Party win seven out of nine presidential races between the 1930s and '60s.

Overwhelmingly, the Republicans – as well as their standard-bearer, Romney – have held fast to the policies that have grown out of that past. As a result, many minority voters from Hispanics to Muslims have felt antagonized by the party – as have women, to a lesser extent. For example:

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