“We haven’t won a decisive presidential election in 24 years,” says Reince Priebus — the first name is short for Reinhold — in his office. George H.W. Bush’s election in 1988, he points out, was the last time Republicans carried California, New Jersey, Illinois or Pennsylvania. (He could have accurately added another large state, Michigan.) With so many electoral votes off-limits, Republicans have to carry almost every tossup state to win…

In particular, Republicans have to do better with “low propensity voters.” In Wisconsin, where Priebus was a successful state party chairman before coming to Washington, 550,000 more people voted in the presidential election than had voted a few months earlier in an election to determine whether Republican Governor Scott Walker would be recalled. Republicans won the earlier race but lost the second (and also lost a Senate seat they thought they had a chance at).

Priebus worries that if they don’t improve their showing among these infrequent voters, they might find themselves in a trap where they do well in low-turnout midterms and then become overconfident about presidential elections.