One of the biggest problems for the Republican party in 2008 was the inability of presidential nominee John McCain to attract minority votes.
In fact, Democratic nominee Barack Obama had the minority vote to himself, capturing 94 percent from African-Americans, 73 percent from Latinos, and 65 percent from Asian Americans.
Success with these sectors went a long way toward securing Obama's victory.
Republicans have been slow to appreciate these costs. But now, for the first time in many years, at least one Republican candidate has come forward with a proposal that may attract support from Latinos, the country's largest minority.
Newt Gringrich now says that illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States legally after a prolonged period, say 25 years, when they have complied with all the laws, paid their taxes, and conducted themselves in ways befitting of American citizens.
Gingrich isn't offering citizenship, but rather a form of permanent residence.
Many Republicans have expressed concern about the Gingrich proposal, but the idea may resonate well in California.
There are today about 11,000,000 illegal immigrants in the United States, approximately 3,000,000 of whom live in California. Upwards of 85 percent of that number are Latinos.
More significantly, Latinos now comprise nearly 40 percent of California's population.
When you consider that percentage and the loyalty of Latino voters to Obama in 2008, it becomes clear that this group has become a huge political force--one that until now has been unquestionably in the Democratic camp.
The Gingrich proposal may give Latinos in California a reason to think twice about their vote in 2012.
As it is, many Latinos share conservative values on questions such as abortion and same sex marriage. Finding solace on the immigration issue could be a game changer for many in the Latino bloc.
Of course, none of this becomes important unless Gingrich wins the Republican presidential nomination, something that seems within the realm of possibility, given his surge among Republicans in recent weeks and the inability of fellow front runner Mitt Romney to attain support from more than 25 percent of his party.
Should Gingrich manage to win the nomination, however, California Latinos may vote Republican in 2012 in much larger proportions than they did in 2008.
To the extent that this occurs, Democrats and Barack Obama may not have the slam dunk victory in California that they have been expecting, and that could lead to national problems.