John Sununu, a former New Hampshire governor and longtime GOP hand, is one of the few who is willing to admit just how clueless he is about, among other things, the rise of Donald Trump and Ben Carson. Here's what Sununu told the New York Times's Jonathan Martin:
I have no feeling for the electorate anymore. It is not responding the way it used to. Their priorities are so different that if I tried to analyze it I’d be making it up.
Sununu is far from alone in GOP ranks. Think about how most establishment Republicans saw this race playing out: Jeb Bush gets in, raises a ton of money and blows everyone else out of the water. By this point in the year, most of the consultant class would have predicted that Bush would be solidly in first place in most of the early states and simply polishing his policy résumé for the general-election fight to come.
But the truth that Martin exposes via Sununu is that the old ways of doing things in the Republican Party have changed significantly since even George W. Bush was elected in 2000 — running, it's worth noting, essentially the same campaign his younger brother is right now. Strategies — get big (in terms of organization), tout electability and inevitability, keep yourself close enough to the center that you can be viable in a general election — that once were fail-safe just don't work in this electoral environment where the dominant sentiment of voters is anger about everything.
For months and months and months, establishment types have counseled patience. Trump (and others) would go up and would come down, Jeb would be steady. That worked right up until Jeb raised $7 million less than Carson over the past three months and had to cut staff to stay afloat. And, oh yeah, Bush (and almost every other "establishment" candidate) is in single digits in polls in every early state that matters.
It's not just at the presidential level either. Remember how Kevin McCarthy was going to be speaker of the House? Sure, there might be some opposition — especially from the tea party-aligned Freedom Caucus — but he had plenty of votes to handle it. Except that he didn't.
We are through the looking glass. The revolution is on. And most of the old guard — Sununu being a notable exception — keeps waiting for things to return to "normal." Maybe they will. Maybe Bush or, more likely, Marco Rubio will wind up as the Republican nominee next year. But, if the recent past is prologue, there is a very real possibility that the way things have always been is not the way they will be in 2016 and someone like, yes, Carson or Trump (or maybe Ted Cruz) could win the GOP nod.
Sometimes you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.