Republican leaders who have watched Donald Trump’s summer surge with alarm now believe that his presidential candidacy has been contained and may begin to collapse because of his repeated attacks on a Fox News Channel star and his refusal to pledge his loyalty to the eventual GOP nominee…

“The fire still burns, but the fire is now contained,” said Alex Castellanos, a veteran GOP strategist. “He can’t grow. He has condemned himself to be a protest candidate, not a serious candidate for the Republican nomination. That means we now move forward to a more normal debate.”

Carly Fiorina said Donald Trump’s comments about Megyn Kelly “were completely inappropriate and offensive” and were clearly meant to imply the Fox News host’s tough questions were a result of menstruation.

“Women understood that comment. And yes, it is offensive,” Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard executive, said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper aired Sunday on “State of the Union.”

Rand Paul was the first of Donald Trump‘s rivals to go on the attack against him at last week’s Republican debate, right after Trump got booed for refusing to commit to the GOP. Paul said, “This is what’s wrong. He buys and sells politicians of all stripes.”

On Fox News Sunday today, Paul elaborated to Chris Wallace, saying, “I don’t think we should reward vulgarity. And I don’t think vulgarity equates with insight.”

Asked if his comments aimed at Kelly were warranted, [Trump’s Iowa co-chair Tana] Goertz stated Trump responds to men and women equally and Kelly attacking Trump made her “fair game.”

“You know with Mr. Trump, he believes that he responds to men and women with equal intensity so you know Megyn was attacking him at the debate and he just fired back. It’s fair game. Isn’t that what the women’s [liberation] movement is all about? He kind of has that mentality that, you know what, there’s no glass ceiling for women. There’s no war on women. He responds to them equally. And he looks at it like if you wanna give it to him, he’ll give it right back.”…

“It was two different situations,” she said. “He was just more or less saying she was coming after me. Kind of like when a guy says ‘I can see smoke coming out your eyes.’ Same analogy. It was an analogy. Here’s the deal, I’m a woman, and I have that issue every single month of my life and it never — and I’m a smart women I have a high I.Q., I’ve been tested, I’ve been in gifted programs. So, I’m like, not a dummy. I’m an intelligent woman who, you know, has this issue every month. I’m a female, who deals with this every single month. And it never crossed my mind he was talking about her period. It never even registered.”

“I’ve had such an amazing relationship with women in business. They are amazing executives. They are killers. They are phenomenal,” Trump said on ABC’s “This Week.”…

He said he has always had “a great relationship with women” and has hired “thousands” of top-level female employees.

I will be phenomenal to the women. I want to help women. What Jeb Bush said last week I thought was totally out of order. Then he came back a day later and he said ‘oh I misspoke’ — well that’s an awfully bad thing to misspeak about. I just don’t think you misspeak that way. So I thought what he did was terrible,” Trump said. He added that he believes Bush has a “huge problem” now…

“I’m very much into the whole thing of helping people and helping women, women’s health issues are such a big thing to me,” he said. As evidence, he said, “I was one of the first people in the construction industry in New York to put women in charge of projects,” and said he has a lot of women working for him in high positions.

Donald Trump: I will say this, I was attacked by the people that you talk about. When you mention a couple of those names, I was attacked viciously by those people. I don’t mean a little bit, I mean viciously. When I am attacked, I fight back, but I was attacked viciously by those women. Of course it is very hard for them to attack me on looks because I’m so good-looking. But I was attacked very viciously by those women, and frankly, again we get back to the words ‘political correctness.’ Am I allowed to defend myself?

“I think he has disqualified himself,” Erickson told reporters, adding that the episode “probably is the beginning of the end” for Trump

“I have emails from people referring to Megyn Kelly as a whore, I have emails from people referring to me as gay, I have emails referring to the president by the n-word and [saying] Donald Trump is standing up to all of us,” he said onstage. “We will not gain the White House if we are not going to be happy warriors.”

Language like this prompted whoops of approval Saturday, but it may have fallen flat even a day earlier. In over a dozen interviews before Trump’s feud with Kelly, RedState participants offered strikingly similar assessments of the billionaire populist.

As much of a fan of Megyn Kelly’s I am, I do not feel as if I should “White Knight” on behalf, nor do I feel that she needs such White Knighting.

Even if Donald Trump did intend to suggest she’s on the rag: Oh for God’s sakes, who cares.

Why do we continue to wind ourselves up in these childish, fake, contrived trivial microcontroversies?…

What we are doing here is feeding the beast here. This beast is the Outrage Beast, and it will eat each of us in turn unless we begin starving it so that it becomes weaker, smaller, and more manageable.

The “Eek! A Mouse!” crap is inherently censorious. How many times a week can we really be Outraged!!! by an off-color or unfair remark?

The rules of the game we are currently playing — and we should not be playing it — is that we must bring down the Social Disapproval of anyone who steps out of line, because, after all, if we don’t destroy that person and publicly shame him and deny him a platform, his behavior “reflects on us.”

That is complete bullshit.

I don’t understand how so many automatically leap from the premise (actually, the fact) that Trump said something offensive to the conclusion that he should therefore have been disinvited from the Red State forum. Look, it’s Erick’s party and he is well within his rights to invite or disinvite anyone he chooses. If I were he, I hope that I’d bear in mind the indulgence I’d received for my own similar offenses, but that’s for him to decide. My point is that it was poor judgment, in principle and under the circumstances, to withdraw the invitation.

It happens that Megyn is a friend of mine. I don’t know if she’s had any reaction today, but I am betting she would never disinvite Trump from a Fox appearance over an offensive remark made about her or a colleague; she’d have him come in, confront him, let him try to explain himself, and let the audience be the judge. That’s what I think Red State should have done.

It’s a candidates’ forum (at least in part), Trump is still a candidate (at least for now), a number of people probably attended the event because he was advertised as a speaker, and it would have been worthwhile to put him to a choice of apologizing or trying to justify himself. It would have told us a lot about him but maybe even more about people who, for whatever reason, see him as a credible conservative candidate at this critical juncture in our history.

“I wanted to give the man a lot of latitude because I know he taps into some anger that even I share,” Erickson told the RedState audience Saturday morning before explaining Trump was disinvited.

That anger, and Trump’s ability to write his own campaign checks, means he isn’t going anywhere. He can continue flying on his personal 757 jet to Iowa, New Hampshire and the other early states, can continue paying staff to organize supporters and build a get-out-the-vote operation, can even start buying intensive television ads. And, as long his polling support nationally keeps him in the top 10 of the 17 candidates, he is likely to win a spot at the next televised GOP debate next month in California.

How much is Trump willing to spend of his fortune to keep going? Will he lose interest if he starts falling in the polls? Or will he only start lashing out even more aggressively?

Through all of Trump’s controversial life, I see plenty of reasons why reasonable people would balk at his run. I can see why conservatives want detailed policies from him and pledges of allegiance. But I don’t see any reason to doubt his love for America.

When he’s talking about making America great again, I know he’s not thinking some WASPy suburban paradise. He’s thinking about Manhattan in the 1970s, where he first made a name for himself. He’s talking about Weird America–where “flash and excess” rule, where you can run for president after getting a WWE bio page.

I like that America, where people file $500 million lawsuits over beauty pageants’ Spanish-language broadcasts. I’d like an America that makes 7 “Fast & Furious” movies without making concessions to Ayatollah Khamenei. I’d like an America that humiliates the likes of Vladimir Putin, not vice-versa. An America that punches back eight times as hard over a tiny offense. An America that everyone might laugh at but ultimately stop attacking because it can only end poorly for them.

And if I trust that Trump likes America almost as much as he likes Donald Trump, then I trust that he will defend America’s pride almost as much as does Donald Trump’s. The rest of the GOP/Democrat field–up to their necks in donors they’ll need to mount a national campaign? Not so much.

The main argument of all of Trump’s conservative critics seems to be, “He’s not a real Republican! He’ll destroy the party establishment!” The people making these criticisms seem to assume that conservative voters will see this as a bad thing…

Trump’s followers are a gang of pissed-off nativists who are tired of being laughed at, belittled, dismissed, and told who to vote for. So it seems incredible that the Republican establishment thinks it’s going to get rid of Trump by laughing at, belittling and dismissing him, and telling his voters who they should be picking.

These hysterical critics are making one of the world’s most irredeemable bullies look persecuted and like a victim, a difficult feat. The desperation to get rid of him may just feed more and more into the right wing base’s crazy victim complex, and in turn get Trump even more support.

People are sick and tired of the GOP, they are sick and tired of spin, they are sick and tired of Obama and they want a candidate who is politically incorrect and who will fight to win. Actually, they want EXACTLY what we here at RedState have been campaigning for since I joined the site in 2004. The problem now is that we have what we want but we’re finding we don’t really want it.

Unfortunately, the GOP establishment (for reasons I completely understand), and we here at RedState (for reasons I can’t fathom), are sliding slowly and inexorably towards excommunicating Trump and his supporters. Not because they more loud or obnoxious than any other candidate supporter but because Trump is an unpopular candidate and because a fringe elements of racists are attracted to his views on immigration… not because of what he proposes but because of how he has voiced those views. This is the type of action that gets the GOP, rightly, labeled as the stupid party.

The GOP tried twice to marginalize another very rich guy named Ross Perot who also spoke his mind (just like with Trump this was not an unalloyed blessing). As a result we twice had Bill Clinton elected with less than 50% of the vote. If we continue to treat Trump and his supporters the way we are treating them we have no one but ourselves to blame when Hillary Clinton is inaugurated in 2017.

Those who still remain Trump supporters seem to be beyond shame. It doesn’t matter that they’re angry about the incompetence in Washington. Turning to Trump to solve the problems in Washington is like turning to an ape to fix a broken refrigerator. It’s embarrassing, but rather than embarrassment, the Trump followers will feel more anger and their pose will shift from self-righteousness to victimhood. And many of them will dig in further.

More worrisome, for conservatives and for the country, so will Trump. As he’s abandoned by more rational beings, Trump, a man of deep and evident insecurity, will need these remaining supporters as validation that it’s the world that’s gone crazy, not him. They will encourage him to march on, guided by the misapprehension that there are many more behind them, perhaps hard to see, but following in the distance nonetheless. Trump will tout this support and insist, unconstrained by reality, that he can win. (This is the man who continues to say Hispanics love him and will support him, despite polls showing his favorability among Hispanics in the mid-teens)…

Trump threatened to leave if Republicans treated him badly. Now, because he’s a churl and a buffoon, Republicans have no choice but to treat him badly.

It’s foolish to pretend to know how it all ends. But one thing is certain: It won’t end well.

Ball: Do you think this will be a turning point for Trump?

Erickson: I don’t know that I can even make a prediction about that. I didn’t think he was going to run, and then he did.

I’ve got to believe that your average voter in the Republican Party, who I think are reflected in this room, and who gave me a standing ovation when I played the clip and told them why I was disinviting him, at some point they’re just going to say, “You know, we can find somebody else who gives voice to our anger without saying stuff like that.” Advantage Ted Cruz, I guess…

At this point, most of the people I encounter on radio and on the internet, they’re not really people who at the end of the day want to vote for Donald Trump. But they sure do like that he’s burning down the Republican Party that never listened to them to begin with.

“I said nothing wrong whatsoever.”