If the NDP is staring into a gaping abyss today, it can only be a long overdue reaction to October. How could Tom Mulcair, who lost 43 seats in his home province of Quebec, hope to convince the party rank and file that his leadership represents a serious chance to win power?

The obvious question is whether anyone else could do it either. The prospects for the party suddenly look very grim, by any measure.

When the Liberals win federally, the NDP has only once in 50 years (1972) won more than nine seats in Ontario. Last October, it took eight. When the Conservatives are in power they do better, but not by much. The party's high-water mark in Ontario came in the anomalous 2011 election, when it took 22 of 73 seats in the Liberal wipe-out.

In Quebec, the story is worse. Historically, the NDP is virtually shut out altogether. Then in 2011, in what has to be considered a one-off, the party won 59 seats in Jack Layton’s extraordinary result. The Orange Wave was really a new Black Swan. Today the NDP holds 16 seats in the province, albeit tenuously.

Without both Ontario and Quebec, which share 199 of 338 seats in the House of Commons, no credible path to power exists for the NDP. Even winning minority government by the slenderest of margins would minimally require over 113 seats. The party’s only consistent stronghold is British Columbia, where it has never won more than 20 seats.

So as the NDP membership debates the almost suicidally divisive Leap Manifesto, shouldn’t their real inquiry start with the most existential question of all?

Is the NDP electable? What does it mean for Canadians if the answer is "No"?