Yesterday the GOP strategist Patrick Ruffini sent out 19 successive tweets sharing his assessment of the Republican race so far. I hope someone will Storify them so you can all easily read them, but until then, follow the link above. His basic argument is that the GOP race is settling into a pattern. Trump has a hard core of supporters nationally, but he can’t seem to grow beyond it. They are, however, unshakable in their support of him:

“We,” of course, refers to the GOP Establishment. Ruffini emphasizes that there is likely no way to peel Trump voters away from their man. Therefore:

Which, I suppose, means a brokered Republican convention. Mayhem. If Trump is denied the nomination, it’s hard to see his people accepting that. It’s hard to see him accepting it. I would put money on a third-party run, and that probably means a Hillary Clinton presidency … unless Trump rallies enough voters to give him a winning plurality. People forget that Bill Clinton won his first term without a majority, but because he was the top vote-getter in a three-man field (Bush, Clinton, and Perot, whose 19 percent denied either opponent an outright win in the popular vote). Hard to see how Trump would pull that off, but if he could win over enough disaffected working-class Democrats, he might. Here’s something interesting about Ruffini’s analysis. Two years ago, he tweeted a similar series of posts talking about how, in his view, conservative institutions are broken. Toward the end, he says:

Donald Trump is not the change agent Republicans like Ruffini wanted, but he’s the change agent they’ve got.

UPDATE: Trip Gabriel of the NYT writes that Trump’s violation of Republican orthodoxies doesn’t bother his fans:

Mark Jebens, a veteran of 22 years in the Marine Corps, found no fault with Donald J. Trump’s scathing criticism that President George W. Bush “lied” about weapons of mass destruction while leading the United States into war in Iraq.

“At the end of the day, a lot of good Marines and sailors and airmen died over something that wasn’t there,” said Mr. Jebens, who served three combat tours in Iraq. “So you’ve got to ask tough critical questions. In the military we called it a debrief or a hot wash.”

Mr. Trump’s hot wash of Mr. Bush in a debate on Saturday, including a suggestion that he did not heed intelligence warnings before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, convinced many Republicans that Mr. Trump had finally gone too far, tarring a former president who is popular in military-friendly South Carolina, and uttering charges that Rush Limbaugh, for one, called “liberal Democrat lingo.”

But numerous military veterans interviewed at Trump rallies in South Carolina this week, including Mr. Jebens, said they had no problem with Mr. Trump’s comments, even if they did not entirely agree with him.

Indeed. I felt exactly the same way when watching Trump lay into Jeb Bush and the others about George W. Bush’s failures on 9/11 and in the Iraq War. Though I did not think Trump was fair to Bush (I don’t know that anyone could have truly foreseen 9/11 coming), it was terrific to hear somebody contending for the Republican Party presidential nomination call bulls*it on the GOP Iraq War denial. The party has not yet contended with the Iraq defeat, and what it means for the nation going forward, because it cannot for some reason admit that it was disastrously wrong, and wrong in ways that this nation — especially its veterans — will be paying for for a long time. It’s easier for the Republican Establishment to tell itself these lies than to confront the messy truth. The Establishment candidates look weak when, in the face of Trump’s blunt criticism of G.W. Bush and the Iraq War, they fall back on pieties like Poor Jeb™ whining about Trump saying mean things about his family, or this from Rubio:

RUBIO: I just want to say, at least on behalf of me and my family, I thank God all the time it was George W. Bush in the White House on 9/11 and not Al Gore.

And you can — I think you can look back in hindsight and say a couple of things, but he kept us safe. And not only did he keep us safe, but no matter what you want to say about weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein was in violation of U.N. resolutions, in open violation, and the world wouldn’t do anything about it, and George W. Bush enforced what the international community refused to do.

A trillion dollars, thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, millions of refugees and a region sliding towards a war of all against all — and that’s “keeping us safe”? Rubio is going to praise Bush for destroying all these lives and the peace for the sake of defending the United Nations?!

And there are actual smart Republicans inside the Beltway who can’t imagine why Trump is doing well. He says mean things about Jeb!’s brother! He says the Iraq War was a failure! He’s history’s greatest monster!