From Jonathan Chait writing at New York magazine:
The last Republican nominating contest was dominated by a succession of increasingly pathetic protest candidates — Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum — serving as placeholders with whom conservative activists could register their amorphous rage. The experience has instilled justifiable caution among reporters, some of whom (myself included) overstated the depth of support for the spoilers. We have all been predisposed to treat Donald Trump as a sideshow, and he certainly has done nothing to make himself a plausible candidate to win the Republican nomination. But Trump has made himself an important factor. His effect on the race to date has been larger — and, from the Republican standpoint, more damaging — than anybody expected.
The GOP’s most important strategic imperative was to structure its nominating contest so as to narrow the gap between its core voting base and the immigrant communities, especially Latino ones, it needs to regain national parity. The first and most important element of that plan was to pass comprehensive immigration reform, taking the issue off the table. That plan collapsed in 2014. The second element of the plan involved imposing some structure and control over their presidential debates, to avoid the 2012 debacle in which candidates competed with each other for the most draconian stance on immigration. No more electrified fences or self-deportation.
To see just how badly Trump has screwed up the intentions of the party elders, consider the results of a new Washington Post poll. Since his inflammatory comments describing immigrants as criminals, Trump’s favorable rating among Republicans has surged.
Read the rest of the story at New York magazine.