“Republicans are coming to a fork in the road — and the question is — whether or not they will take it,” Heye told CNN. “There are a lot of people who wanted to fight — all we could do is fight Obama, fight the Democrats nonstop. Or do we have a strategy of not just throwing punches but landing punches?”

The way the GOP resolves that question could go a long way to sealing the fate of Bush and other Republican establishment candidates and answer another question hanging over the 2016 race: will the GOP nominate a candidate with broad enough appeal to win a general election?

For months, the argument for Bush’s candidacy has been that he would be the most electable candidate, having shown his ability to win in the mighty swing state of Florida. But for now, at least among the activists who dominate the early caucus and primary states, the premium is on desire for something fresh.

A track record of compromise and the ability to work seamlessly with both sides of the aisle is increasingly looking like a blemish on the records of establishment candidates like Bush rather than an asset.