The Trump part of the conversation was new, however. Two weeks ago, the controversy was how Trump alluded to the influx of illegal immigrants. Now it has grown to disrespecting a decorated veteran.
To many scholars, this whole immigration issue is a death knell for the GOP. If the party changes its stance, and somehow backs off on border control concerns, it will still not win hearts (just have fewer enemies).
If they stay the course and allow the world to define them, they will continue to lose national elections. Not a great scenario. Make no mistake, if the propensity for immigrants was to identify as conservative (just a hypothetical), the Democrats would be opposing reform as well, so no party is completely clean on this.
The Republicans are in bad shape nationally, despite winning more governorships and having more elected state officials than the Democrats for the first time in 150 years. This means the GOP has a bullpen, but is not really capable of winning a World Series.
How does this Donald Trump fiasco factor into this as an eventual plus? The Republicans can show separation from this kind of rhetoric within their ranks. Now the party can show what it will not tolerate.
Trump’s calling out of John McCain’s military service is despicable, but it gives the rest of the field something of a high ground. At least they are not that guy.
My advisor asked me the question: How can the Republicans get away from Trump? It's not that hard, really. There is almost – almost – no way to win the electoral votes needed without being the nominee of one of the two parties.
The party makes its own rules, and can keep Trump off the stage at debates or at least minimize him, but more than likely he will implode on his own. Remember when Joe Biden (then a candidate for the presidency) joked how they never give him time to talk? Moderators ignored the clock when Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton spoke. Parties are not as irrelevant as political scientists often assume.
When a political outsider enters a presidential race, they almost certainly never win the nomination. They also almost certainly cause agita to the rest of the party. The Democrats weren’t thrilled with Al Sharpton sharing the stage in 2004, and the GOP is experiencing its own aggravation with Trump.
Centrist Republicans and less-controversial conservatives can now establish that they are not going to tolerate the fiery language of Trump, certainly not when it’s aimed at a senior GOP flag bearer like McCain.
It would also be a good time to establish a sensible, and less ambiguous, approach to immigration. There is no reason to not reach out to the Latino community in a more successful way.
Overall, this Trump fiasco gives the Republicans a chance to re-invent themselves to some degree. If they do not, they risk a string of bad Novembers.