The closest recent analog here is probably what Democrats went through —and put the rest of us through — in 2004, when George W. Bush was running for a second term. The most ardent primary voters quickly got behind Howard Dean, of course, because he channeled their fury about the Iraq War and the general fecklessness of their leaders in Washington. But by the time the votes were cast, Democrats had decided that John Kerry was Democratic enough to be their nominee and was a much safer, if unexciting, choice.
Dean, you may recall, won exactly one state (Vermont, where most of the voters knew him personally) and one territory (the District of Columbia, where most of them knew Kerry). Everywhere else, electability was the decisive issue of the day.
And there are other reasons to think that 2016 will be a more pragmatic year for Republicans than it might seem. For one thing, the Tea Party insurgency that rocked the party in 2010, and to a lesser extent in 2012, claimed exactly one victim in Washington this cycle: Eric Cantor, whose main problem, as I’ve written before, had almost nothing to do with ideology and almost everything to do with his having become an almost human-like hologram. The conservative grassroots may still be angry at their party (and have been, really, for the better part of 50 years), but they’re a lot more focused on weakening Barack Obama and regaining power than in venting frustrations.