So, what’s easier for Republicans? To give in and pass a bill that might add Hispanic voters to your districts, whom you then have to win over; or blocking the bill and upping your share of the white vote? That’s hardly a dilemma at all, and explains why the Senate bill faces such a hard road in the House. As they contemplate 2014 and 2016, Republicans are looking at elections where the white share of the vote may increase compared with 2012. They compare elections when Barack Obama was on the ballot against elections when he wasn’t. The white shares of the vote in 2008, 2010, and 2012 were, respectively, 74 percent, 77 percent, and 72 percent.

“I don’t look at Obama completely as stunt casting,” says Florida-based GOP strategist Rick Wilson, “but the fact that he was the first minority president moved a lot of minority voters. And right now the group of possible Democratic nominees for 2016 looks like a meeting of the Robert Byrd fan club. It’s the white boy coalition. None of these guys will light a fire for black voters.”

But Republicans, increasingly, light a fire with whites. From 2008 to 2012, Barack Obama’s share of the white vote fell from 43 percent to 39 percent. Right after the election, the fact that Obama scored a smaller white vote than Michael Dukakis was cited as proof that the GOP needed to change. Flip the logic. If Republicans can build on the white trend but Democrats can’t build on the nonwhite trends, Republicans will be safe, for a while. If Republicans get back to the 66 percent white vote won by Ronald Reagan in 1984, they’re golden.