This week, the Republican National Committee held its third annual "RNC Black Trailblazers Luncheon," an event that honored Rep. Mia Love (Utah), Rep. Will Hurd (Texas), and Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), a trio of federally elected officials who represent a high-water mark for the GOP. Chairman Reince Priebus has made outreach to African American voters a hallmark of his tenure, and at least in certain states such as Ohio, it has proven to be successful. In 2014, the GOP got 10 percent of the black vote, close to their high of 11 percent in 2006.

But the problems in terms of the black vote outlined in the GOP's post-2012 autopsy were never about state races, as certain Republican statewide candidates have done well with black voters over the past decades.  The problem and the prize has always been about the White House.

Which is where we get predictions and Washington Post headlines such as this:

"I think it's the right thing to do for our party ... fighting for every vote in America is the right thing to do in our party," Priebus said during an interview prior to the event as reported by my colleague Wesley Lowery. "I want to see us increase the numbers of Republican votes in the black community so that increase actually has a clear impact on the outcome of the election."

So two flashbacks, since it's Friday:

"Instead of getting 6 percent of the black vote in this country, if we get out there and fight and talk to people, can we get 15?” Priebus asked during a speech in August. “Can we get 20? And then two years later, can we get 22 and 23?”

Second, this from the Los Angeles Times in May 1989:

Back then, it was RNC Chairman Lee Atwater making the pledge and building a strategy around black voters at President George H.W. Bush's urgings.  Blacks were, at the time, the nation's largest minority group; they have since ceded that ground to Latinos as of 2003.

Atwater said at the time: "Every place I go across this country, I see a revolution taking place in the black community and the brown community. It's an entrepreneurial revolution. And our party is the party that can best deal with this entrepreneurial revolution."

Bush ended up getting 11 percent of the black vote, up 1 point from how he did in 1988.

So what's the point of this flashback moment? It's certainly not to compare Priebus with Atwater, who has a certain infamy on matters of race and campaigns because of the Willie Horton ad, among other things.  Rather, it's to highlight how long these very Republican outreach efforts have been going on in national campaigns -- and how fruitless they have often been.

Not since Gerald Ford in 1976 have Republicans been able to get 15 percent among black voters in a presidential race.

What will it take for Priebus to reach that target?  He's set up offices and outreach workers in various cities and dumped lots of dollars into organizing efforts.  And often such labors yield dividends with moderate voters and end up being an indirect appeal that doesn't show up among black voters. And, an election without President Obama on the ballot should afford Republicans a bit more opportunity among black voters.

But it is also true that the kind of racial rhetoric that has cropped up around Obama's presidency (birtherism, for example) and political strategies that are perceived to be about race (voter ID laws, for example) could leave the kind of taint on the Republican Party in the minds of many African American voters that could be hard to overcome.  Erasing racial memories is  a hard thing -- just ask America. And for a determined Priebus and the next GOP nominee, it will remain an enduring challenge.