As California goes, so goes the nation.
Republicans who missed the lesson of the Golden State's shift from friend of the Grand Old Party to Democratic super majority may be giving the state another look amid the soul-searching a day after Barack Obama's solid defeat of Mitt Romney.
Just as the GOP years ago backed itself into a political-minority box in California by appealing to a vocal but shrinking base of white male voters while alienating other groups, many Republicans on Wednesday admitted they now face the same outcome on a national level unless they radically alter their strategy.
"The national Republican Party is following the path of the California GOP, which means they're doomed unless they can find a way to reach not only Hispanic and Asian voters, but also women and even gays and lesbians,'' said Terry Christensen, political science professor emeritus at San Jose State University.
Not since Bob Dole's 1996 loss to Bill Clinton has any Republican, or any candidate, ranked as poorly among Latino voters, according to the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center, and never has it mattered so much.
The nonwhite voter turnout on Tuesday reached a record 28 percent, and the Latino turnout a record 10 percent. Exit polls Tuesday showed that Obama won a startling 71 percent of the Hispanic vote and 73 percent of the fast-growing Asian-American electorate, while Romney carried 59 percent of the white vote.
"When Pete Wilson was (re)elected governor of California by essentially running against Latinos, I remember saying, 'They've just given away their future,''' said professor John Elwood at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. "Ever since then, consultants have been telling the GOP they've got to do something different or their future is gone."
California's Latinos were becoming steadily more Republican throughout the 1980s and early 1990s until state voters passed Proposition 187, the 1994 Wilson-backed measure to exclude illegal immigrants from nearly all public services, including public schools, said Stanford University political scientist Gary Segura.
That divisive, racially-charged period turned the tide of California politics, with more than 1 million Latinos registering to vote in the next six years and most siding with Democrats, Segura said.
That "created the California we have today," said Segura, with Democrats running all branches of government.
After Obama's victory Tuesday, built solidly on support from Latinos and other minorities, Republicans are now left looking at California as a warning of how a narrow game plan must be broadened to appeal to a changing electorate.
Obama didn't simply thump Romney in Tuesday's election, by winning Electoral College-rich battleground states like Ohio and Virginia. He exposed the faulty wiring of a Republican party that must win over Hispanics, Asians, women and young people as Obama did so dramatically in the polls.
Along with strong majorities of black, Latino and Asian voters, Obama won 60 percent of voters under 30; among women, the president took 55 percent of the vote; while Romney won 52 percent of men.
Romney could have learned from the mistakes of friend and fellow business executive Meg Whitman, who just two years ago lost a gubernatorial election after moving right to win the primary and alienating California's growing Latino electorate, said Arnold Torres, a Sacramento political analyst and strategist.
"Romney took what happened with Whitman and repeated it," Torres said.
Republicans could also have learned from the success of George W. Bush, who won 40 percent of Latino voters in 2004 thanks, in part, to a more inclusive tone and less partisan approach to the immigration debate, Torres said.
Instead, "I think the Republican party made a decision, and they were very well aware of it, that they can try to win this election without the minority vote, to push that white vote as best they can," Torres said. "If you look at those rallies, there was no color, no rainbow, nothing except white voters."
Those televised images weren't lost on voters like Janice Pennisi, a third-generation Italian-American from Walnut Creek who voted for Obama not necessarily because she thought he was the best candidate -- but because the idea of voting for Romney was a complete turnoff.
"I couldn't relate because he just seemed to represent rich, white men to me," she said. "Going forward, Republicans ... need to come back more to the center if they ever hope to get my vote."
Republicans lost some Latinos with their threats to repeal Obama's health care reform, according to the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. Conservative stands on abortion and same-sex marriage lost ground with younger voters who have more liberal social views, and some Republican candidates' high-profile gaffes about rape offended scores of women of all backgrounds.
Romney's tack to the right on immigration during the primary and comment about "self deportation" may have been his defining problem for Latino voters, according to polls that measured how Latinos viewed the election.
The hard question for Republicans is whether they're willing to modify some of these positions to attract a wider range of voters. On Wednesday, some pundits continued to insist that isn't necessary.
"No doubt the media will insist that Republicans must change, must sprint to the center, must embrace social liberalism ..." Fred Barnes wrote on The Weekly Standard blog. "All that is hogwash, which is why Republicans are likely to reject it. Their ideology is not a problem."
Former Bush speech writer David Frum tweeted a different message: "First step toward Republican recovery in 2016: insult fewer people."