ANOTHER DEMOGRAPHIC DOWNWARD SPIRAL…. Occasionally, we’ll hear prominent Republican leaders argue that the GOP has to do better in broadening its appeal in minority communities if the party expects to compete effectively in the future. In general, those arguments are ignored by the party’s rank and file.

The results, then, aren’t surprising.

New poll numbers really seem to bear out the fears of some Republicans: The GOP’s quasi-opposition to Sotomayor seems to be hurting the party among Latinos in a big way.

The latest numbers from the nonpartisan Research 2000 for Daily Kos find that only eight percent of Latinos view the party favorably, while an astonishing 86 percent view it unfavorably.

That’s a real shift from what were already pretty bad numbers from before the Sotomayor nomination, when 11% of Latinos viewed the GOP favorably, and 79% viewed it unfavorably.

For a while, when some of the conservative attacks against Sotomayor were especially offensive, Republican leaders tried to keep the ugliness at arm’s length. GOP officials would remind folks that Gingrich, Limbaugh, et al, were not actually Republican officeholders.

It appears these distinctions have been inconsequential.

What’s more, Josh Marshall notes that the Republican Party may have structural impediments in place that will make progress difficult.

The only problem is that the modern Republican party’s panic switch, or at least one of them, is rancid jingoism and more or less open anti-Hispanic (though often specifically targeted at Mexicans) prejudice. Or, to put it more bluntly, as with African-Americans, it’s tough to be the party of the blacks and the racists at the same time. (Not that the Dems didn’t try it for a few decades in the middle of the 20th century — but it didn’t end up panning out.)

One might imagine an alternative universe in which gays were not only an increasingly open and powerful political constituency but also one that was growing rapidly in population terms. And you’d have Republicans wanting to cultivate support among this growing group but also episodically bashing them to consolidate support among base conservative voters.

In other words, it’s not a mistake or incompetence or any lack of planning that has Republicans in such a bad position with Hispanics, America’s fastest growing ethnic group. It’s just that people who are hostile to Hispanic immigration and just Hispanics in general are one of the GOP’s key constituencies. That puts some real obstacles in the way of becoming the party of Hispanics.

Quite a conundrum.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.