I knew that his opportunistic populism would resonate with part of the party, especially given how tone-deaf it has been to its own conservative base in the last several presidential cycles, so I did not completely write him off. In fact I hoped that his blunt talk would influence the other candidates to deviate from their scripts and engage in some real, genuine, uninhibited debate about the future of the party and the nation.
Initially, I thought the most-likely Republican nominee was Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) . . . but his campaign imploded surprisingly early. Former technology executive Carly Fiorina (R) seemed like a possibility as well, but her campaign also disintegrated after a brief flare. Then for much of the early phase of the race I thought it would eventually settle on Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) as a reasonable compromise between the conservative base and the old-guard party elites, and although Rubio held out until the final four, he also fizzled.
And then I thought for sure that the party would rally behind Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), an outsider and ‘tea party’ favorite who is not well-liked by the old guard, but who has proven his leadership chops (love him or hate him) and has helped move the Congress in a more un-apologetically conservative direction.
All along, I thought that Trump’s apparent success was an illusion.