Ever since John McCain and Sarah Palin painted themselves as "rogues" running to change a broken system in Washington, the Republican Party has tried to take up the mantle of being anti-establishment. According to them, the Democrats and even certain members of their own party (specifically, moderates) were the reason for Washington's dysfunction. As a result, Conservatives openly embraced the Tea Party Movement and pulled the party as a whole to the right, gradually bumping out those who didn't exhibit their ideology all the time. The party blasted the media for their political bias and refused to show any sign of bipartisanship. The only compromise would be if Democrats were to bow completely to their will.
The strategy worked well in 2010 and Republicans had a good chance of unseating Barack Obama in 2012. The problem, however, that Mitt Romney (once a moderate) had moved so far right to win the nomination that he was outside Americans's comfort zone for someone to serve as President. The loss shocked the party who ignored the polls and warning signs because of their belief that the system was against them. Some Conservatives went as far as to hint at voter fraud on the part of Democrats.
The party establishment assessed the situation and recognized that they had to change their approach and subsequently who they nominated. Rumblings began almost immediately for Jeb Bush to run, hoping that he would be moderate enough to win the White House in 2016. This, of course, angered Conservatives who were both unhappy with the last toe Bush presidencies but also weary of a third. But the idea of preprdsining Bush as the candidate of choice only pushed things further and led to Conservatives to up their calls for a pure Conservative to run against both the media and the GOP establishment. The GOP leadership, in their eyes, was now the problem especially as Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell began yielding to President Obama even as Republicans controlled both houses of Congress.
This brought about the rise of Ted Cruz, an unyielding Senator willing to buck party leadership and crusade against the "liberal" media. Cruz single-handidly shutdown the Federal government over Obamacare. It didn't matter that Cruz hadn't been part of any major legislation since joining the Senate. Cruz was the Conservative Champion trying to stop bipartisanship to uphold their values.
Until Donald Trump entered the race. With rambling, probably improvised speeches filled with rhetoric that insulted Mexicans and John McCain and Lindsey Graham's phone number, Trump became the anti-establishment, anti-media candidate Conservatives had been looking for. He immediately jumped to the tops of polls despite efforts by members of the media and the establishment to downplay his candidacy as a joke. This, however, has only served to energize Trump and his base even further.
Conservative voters have been searching for years for someone to tell it how it is in unrelenting fashion and not be sorry about it. Trump has yet to apologize for any insult he has made, despite calls from his fellow candidates to do so. Conservatives have grown to view the other candidates as being part of the problem as they're already part of the system. Trump, however, is no politician. He's a straight-talking businessman who says what he means and means what he says. He doesn't answer to anyone, whether it be party leadership or the media.
In other words, Conservative voters's dream candidate.
Trump has tapped into the anger and anti-Washington sentiment that many Conservatives have felt for years now and ridden it to the top of state and national polls. He's spoken out in ways that almost every politician can't because he isn't a politician and thus not bound by their "code of conduct", so to speak. He doesn't care who he offends or how he does it as long as he's speaking what he feels to be the truth.
Trump is the kind of candidate the Republican Party has been asking for. Only, they had hoped that through political consultants and polling-generated messaging they would be able to create such a candidate from within, one who they would still have a handle on. This candidate would give the party the outreach they wanted to win elections while still holding true to Conservatism. They'd hope for Jeb Bush and would've settled for someone like Scott Walker.
Instead, they got Trumped.
With The Donald now trumping the competition, the party leadership is no longer seeing their candidates trying to expand their outreach through thoughtful and meaningful debate. Instead, the inflammatory rhetoric and over-the-top antics that the Conservative base loves has been kicked up to new heights. With Trump dominating the news, the other candidates are trying to get a piece of the headlines. Rand Paul took a chainsaw to the tax code. Lindsey Graham smashed his cell phone. Rick Perry has gone head-to-head with Trump and called him a cancer. Mike Hucakbee has invoked the Holocaust in discussing the Iran nuclear deal and, in Trump fashion, has refused to apologize for it even when his own party has called for him to do so. And Ted Cruz, the once-Conservative Champion who has seen his thunder stolen the most by Trump, took to the Senate floor to attack Senator McConnell as "flat-out lying" to every Republicsn Senator and the media in what amounts to a violation of Senate rules.
Did he apologize for his speech? No.
The Republican Party have gotten the anti-media, anti-establishment Conservative Champion they asked for but didn't really want; Donald Trump. Now they don't know what to do with him.
The White House might have to wait until 2020.