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Four Republican senators have decided not to run in 2010. The party's fundraising arm doesn't understand the Internet. And one of the candidates for the leadership of the party's national council sent out a CD containing the song "Barack the Magic Negro." Nah, no reason to worry about the Republicans at all.

On Nov. 4, John McCain led the GOP to its worst election defeat since Barry Goldwater's immolation in 1964. Since then, things have got worse.

Because the Republicans are down to 41 seats in the Senate, they have no hope of regaining a majority in next year's midterm elections. No majority means no committee chairmanships or other powerful perks. Older senators, or impatient young ones, are thinking of stepping down. There will be further defections in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

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Each defection forces the Republican National Committee to divert limited resources to protecting what used to be safe seats. The Republicans will be defending at least 20 Senate seats in 2010, the Democrats only 17. And all four of the retiring senators are in states - Kansas, Florida, Ohio and Missouri - where Democrats are competitive.

GOP fundraisers watched slack-jawed as Barack Obama exploited the burgeoning social networks on the Internet to recruit four million donors who contributed $750-million, three times what Mr. McCain raised.

Republicans will never be able to replicate that boggling achievement unless, and until, they can find a message and a candidate to galvanize both conservatives and swayable independents. Which is why the race for chairman of the RNC is being watched so closely.

The 168 RNC members will choose a new chairman the week after next. He (all the candidates are men) will be the voice of the Republican Party until its next leader is chosen.

One of those candidates, Tennessee party chair Chip Saltsman, circulated a CD to committee members that contained "Barack the Magic Negro," a parody of a Peter, Paul and Mary song that only those with longer teeth even remember.

Another, South Carolina party chair Katon Dawson, only recently resigned from a country club whose covenant (unenforceably) excludes blacks.

Two of the candidates actually are black. One of them, J. Kenneth Blackwell, who was Ohio's secretary of state, is favoured by the most socially conservative wing of the GOP. He could become the Clarence Thomas of the RNC.

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The Republican Party is shunned by every part of the electorate that is growing - the young, Latinos, blacks, city dwellers, people in the New South.

As the base of the party dwindles, that base becomes more radical and intolerant, and its leadership devolves along with it. In a recent debate, the six candidates for the chairmanship competed to see who owned more guns. All agreed that Ronald Reagan was a greater president than Abraham Lincoln.

It is a rough beast that slouches toward the leadership of such a party in 2012, and its name is Sarah Palin.

But we've tried moderation, say the talk-show hosts and the preachers and the guys at the institutes. We've kowtowed to the ethnics, and toned down on abortion, and supported deficits. Look where it got us.

The Republican Party, they insist, must cleanse itself, must champion a strong Christian America with an open economy and closed borders. Voters would flock to a party of such uncompromising principle, they argue.

They can try that line if they want. Meantime: On Nov. 4, Democrats took all 10 of the wealthiest states in the union. Republicans won nine of the 10 poorest states.

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U.S. population growth is driven by immigration and by high Latino birth rates. Of the 15 states projected to have the largest populations in 2030, according to the Census Bureau, 12 went Democratic in 2008. Of the 15 states expected to be at the bottom, nine went Republican.

In Florida, the ultimate swing state, 22 per cent of voters are now Latino or black. But don't Florida Latinos vote Republican, because of their hatred for Fidel Castro? Not any more. The Democrats took 57 per cent of their vote, and the state.

Nationally, among those who voted, one in five was black or Latino. Members of what is being called the "black/brown coalition" made up a third of the Democratic vote.

Send out copies of "Barack the Magic Negro." That'll make 'em switch.

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