We have now reached the nightmare for the establishment GOP. The hated Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are looking like the will end up battling each other to become the party's nominee, while the establishment is left with plans of chaos at the convention in July. In my adult life, which goes back to Reagan years of the 80s, the Republicans have seemed pretty stable and orderly when comes to picking a presidential nominee. Since 2008 the order has been unraveling until it reached bizzaro world anarchy you have now.
In 2008, after some initial chaos in the Summer and Fall, the path to the nomination was somewhat smooth for John McCain once voting started. It makes sense that there would be some chaos, because you had open nominations on the Republican and Democratic side. Then in 2012 Mitt Romney ended up winning the nomination, and was aided greatly by strong establishment support, more money and better organization than any of the challengers like Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum. The Republicans seem to settle on the safe pick, because they just wanted somebody to beat President Obama. The problem for Romney is the nomination took him so far to the right, out of his comfort zone, that nobody bought the "severely conservative" Mitt Romney appeal.
Now the Republican base is so angry and put off that even with big wins in the 2010 and 2014 off year elections, they were not able to deny his re-election in 2012 or undo Obamacare even though they have been promised that is GOP's top priority. In 2012 the Republican's flirted with an out of the box candidate, but ended settling on the establishment friendly Mitt Romney. This year the voters have simply rejected the establishment choices and the side of the road is littered with candidates like Scott Walker, Jeb! Bush, and Chris Christie with John Kasich and Marco Rubio hanging on for dear life to not get thrown out of the clown car. Instead the clown car is being driven by huckster and reality tv star, Donald Trump, who has the campaign strategy of shouting whatever the really mad base wants to hear. The fact that Trump is winning means that experience and policy mean nothing to a good portion of the base. In interviews there seems to be a lot of "What the heck, give Trump a shot" answer from his supporters. This means that establishment can't use simple logic and reason to beat Trump, because his supporters simply don't seem to care.
The Republican establishment basically has three uncomfortable choices that all seem to point towards Hillary Clinton being sworn in as the next president. Choice one, accept that Donald Trump is the nominee, but that means they will probably lose the Senate and chances for Trump beating Hillary is at best a coin flip. Choice two, put all your money and energy into Senator Ted Cruz beating Trump, but it's hard to tell if establishment hates Cruz or Trump more. Also Cruz has the only mathematical chance of beating Trump, he is still facing an uphill battle. While Trump is a wild card that could win White House, I just don't see how Cruz will be able to win anything other than the red states, and will be a drag on down ticket races. Choice three, try to hold Trump under the winning number and stage a coup at the convention in Cleveland. The strategy will be based on how close Trump comes to the delegate number, if he does fall short, but no matter if what if Trump supporters think the establishment is trying to steal nomination, there will be a full scale revolt, and the ensuing civil war will all but guarantee President Hillary Clinton.
After the 2012 election the conventional thinking was you can't insult black people, women, and Hispanics and hope to win a national election. While they played lip service to these groups, the actual policy tells a different story, and tends to point towards doubling down on winning more of the white vote. As long term strategy, winning with just white vote has no chance, and even winning 2016 is iffy at best. There is no way to see who the nominee will end up being, much less predicting what would happen if they lose again. What will happen when you don't have Obama fueled hate to run with? Is Donald Trump a one time anomaly or shape of things to come in the Republican party? Can you make changes as your base continues to get older and whiter? That having brown faces on stage talking to a sea of white faces does not mean the same thing as being an actual big tent party? No matter what at some point there will need to be some soul searching for the GOP.