A friend of mine who has spent many years in politics recently emailed me from a Florida airport after sitting next to two women who were lifelong Democrats but intended to vote for Trump.

“They think someone needs to fundamentally change the political culture. They believe his policies are less important than his no-bullshit posture. Amazing,” he wrote.

Veteran Republican strategists involved in the GOP race (and working for other candidates) now tell me they believe Trump is in the race for the long haul and can and will win delegates, starting in Iowa, given that contests before March 15 are required to award delegates on the basis of proportional representation.

Trump’s early strength among the party’s most conservative and frustrated voters could help him amass a substantial number of delegates in the South (which has many early March contests).

So, I can no longer simply dismiss Trump (and the other “non-politicians”) as evidence of a Republican temper tantrum that will automatically fade into oblivion. Indeed, GOP insiders are worrying that Trump could well earn himself a speaking slot at the party’s convention, adding to the party’s general election challenges.