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Dionne commentary: The GOP's Trumpian moment of truth

WASHINGTON--What is the Republican Party? Suddenly, this has become one of the central questions of the 2016 campaign. It's not simply a matter of whether the GOP is the party of Donald Trump or the party of Paul Ryan. It is also an issue of whet...

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WASHINGTON-What is the Republican Party?

Suddenly, this has become one of the central questions of the 2016 campaign. It's not simply a matter of whether the GOP is the party of Donald Trump or the party of Paul Ryan. It is also an issue of whether Republican congressional leaders have any connection with the seething grass roots whose anger they stoked during the Obama years but always hoped to contain. Trump is the product of their colossal miscalculations.

And then there are the ruminations of millions of quiet Republicans-local business people and doctors and lawyers and coaches and teachers. They are looking on as the political institution to which they have long been loyal is refashioned into a house of bizarre horrors so utterly distant from their sober, community-minded and, in the truest sense of the word, conservative approach to life.

This election has been transformed. Its trajectory will now be divided between Before the Video and After the Video. Hillary Clinton was always likely to win, but BV, it seemed she would have to scratch out a normal, and perhaps even narrow, victory. AV, Republicans all the way down the ticket are running for their lives. Clinton has already started to divert some of her rhetorical energy to helping Democrats in Senate and House races, and Democratic money sources are moving to try to make Nov. 8 a day of victory at all levels.

Taking control of the Senate is well within the Democrats' reach. Winning the 30 seats they need in the House is still a long shot because of partisan gerrymanders and the concentration of Democratic votes in big cities. Still, the fact that the possibility is even being discussed is a sea change, and the success of many of those gerrymanders for the GOP depended on large suburban margins. It is precisely suburban voters, Republican and independent, who are Trump's nemesis.

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And for those running on the ticket headed by Trump, there are no good options. Logic would dictate abandoning him, and that's what the party's candidates did in droves following the video's release. But Trump has engendered deep loyalties among core Republican voters, and dumping him carries a price-a price that Trump was happy to raise sky high.

"Disloyal R's are far more difficult than Crooked Hillary," he tweeted on Tuesday. "They come at you from all sides. They don't know how to win-I will teach them!"

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