Donald Trump has Republican "reformicons" worried

Strain is not the only reformicon with a case of nerves. To one degree or another, virtually everyone in his circle of mostly 30-something conservatives interviewed in recent days expressed apprehension that the Republican contest could degenerate into the negative, policy-light brawl of four years ago, something party officials and policy advocates had sought to avoid.

“A reasonable case could be made for a purely oppositional campaign in 2012. There was an incumbent and the idea was to make the race a referendum on the incumbent,” said Ramesh Ponnuru, a senior editor for the conservative National Review magazine and columnist for Bloomberg View.

“But this is an open campaign with no incumbent,” he said. “It’s just crazy to run without an agenda.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.