Four years ago this week, the Politics Column slipped into pontificating mode with a dispatch from Minneapolis on the state of the New York Republican Party.
The column ruminated over the daily breakfasts hosted by the New York GOP for its delegates to the 2008 Republican National Convention, which traditionally serve as a rallying event and a chance to showcase the party's rising stars.
Nice room at the Minneapolis Hyatt. No complaints about the bacon and eggs.
But the column noted that speakers addressing the New Yorkers hardly represented a growing GOP. The party leaders called upon to fire up the base represented titanic names from the past – George Pataki, Rudy Giuliani, Joe Bruno. But none represented the face of a young and thriving party.
Fast forward to the 2012 convention, and similar gatherings of New York Republicans at the Hilton Clearwater Beach. The speakers? George Pataki and Rudy Giuliani.
And oh yes, the party trotted out a new guy this time – Al D'Amato – who last held office in 1998.
It's an ominous sign for the New York Republican Party that it must continually reach into its past to inspire the present. It's an even more ominous sign that few appear on the GOP roster as titanic names of the future.
Ed Cox, the respected GOP leader who has actually accomplished some things in a tough state like New York, says too much is made by the party's reach into history.
He invites the party's old lions to inspire the younger Republicans coming up the ladder – and is convinced there are plenty of those.
"We're very concerned about building the bench," he said. "You have to do that."
Yet the future of the party weighed heavily with top New York Republicans here last week. And it should, given that no Republican has won statewide office since Pataki a decade ago.
D'Amato was one of those who offered his thoughts this past convention week. At 75, the senator-turned-lobbyist knows a thing or two about winning statewide elections, even regaling his breakfast session audience with tales about his upset primary win over Jacob Javits in 1980.
He won three statewide elections, he noted, at a time when Democrats outnumbered Republicans in New York State by "only" 500,000 voters. Today it's more like 3 million.
"Unless you have a well-funded campaign or a badly flawed Democrat, it's awfully difficult," he told reporters at the convention. "Make no mistake about it; it's a very difficult task."
But the former senator says the party should look back a century for lessons. That's when the GOP brilliantly recruited newly arrived Italian-Americans in New York City and elsewhere after other ethnic groups like the Irish dominated the Democrats. Republicans should emulate that strategy today with Hispanics, D'Amato says.
"We need to make a concerted effort to get the biggest growing bloc participating in politics – the Hispanic community," he said. "I look at that community as a very hardworking, family-oriented community that Republicans should be appealing to."
Of course, D'Amato was always a Rockefeller Republican who might reject some of the tough anti-immigration policies espoused today by on the national scene by Republicans who are anything but "Rockefeller." Some of that makes the idea difficult to implement.
Maybe that's why Cox invited Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno on Wednesday.
He thinks Republicans like him can appeal to the more than 1 million Hispanics in the New York metropolitan area alone.
Indeed, there's a place for the old lions in the New York GOP. But there is also a need for ideas like D'Amato's if Republicans can ever regain statewide relevance beyond their slim grip on the Senate.
Otherwise, we can plan right now another column like this one for 2016.