But even if beating Trump is just a pipe dream for frustrated Weekly Standard fanboys, the Republican primary might be about more than just softening up Trump, or dealing him some kind of mortal blow in New Hampshire. If Trump’s fitness for office becomes a viable conversation piece among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, for even just a few weeks next January or during the primaries in February, they will have accomplished something that nobody in politics has even bothered to attempt this campaign year: talking to center-right swing voters who are uncomfortable with the man in the White House.

That’s the Never Trump line, more or less, with precious time ticking away before the primaries. If some principled Republican can find a few yards of running room, the argument goes, then the myth of Trump’s power, artificially inflated by a loud right-wing media and the architecture of official Washington, will finally be exposed. The “kamikaze mission,” as Hogan put it, is exactly the point. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who are queasy about Trump and his divisiveness—they account for anywhere from 17 to 22% of the GOP vote in a recent Quinnipiac poll—will have permission to vote for someone else in the primary, and possibly in the general election. Without the persuadable voters who held their nose for him in 2016 over Hillary Clinton, Trump simply won’t be able to find enough red-capped white people to win next year. “There is an element of Trump that he’s just somebody walking around with a paper bag full of water,” Stevens argued. “It won’t leak a lot. But once it goes, it will go.”…

rump will not lose a Republican primary, but Joe Walsh showed last week how he might be sullied by one. Walsh, who by all indications has no real staff or campaign operation, is a professional radio barker who seems intent on attacking the president on his home turf: cable news. During an appearance on the Fox Business Network, Walsh tangled with host Stuart Varney on the question of whether Trump has ever lied. Walsh turned the question on Varney, asking him, “Do you believe he’s ever told the American people a lie?” Varney beclowned himself with his terse answer: “No.” It was a ridiculous moment on a little-watched network, but Walsh, a performer who loudly supported Trump in 2016, went into the belly of the pro-Trump propaganda machine and curb-stomped one of his lackeys on national television. Democrats can howl about Trump all day long, on any network or platform, but they will never be credible messengers for Republican audiences. Other Republicans, who actually know how to speak Republican, have a different opportunity.