Sessions succumbed to Trump’s direct rebukes — what Gray called “brutal punches to the face from the president of the United States.” But his defeat also appears to have reflected a sea change that Trump has accelerated — and that will outlast him — elevating personality politics over platform-based campaigns.

Within that environment, there was no room for a textbook conservative like Ryan, who elected not to run for re-election in 2018. Nor was there any space for Sanford, a one-time South Carolina governor, who embarked on a quixotic primary campaign against Trump after being abandoned by his party. He said he hoped to “raise and elevate a discussion and debate about where are we going as a country” but quickly abandoned the effort.

Concluding the obvious, Sanford said at the time, “There is no appetite for a subtle discussion of issues on the Republican side.”…

“[Trump] has transformed the party in his image, for sure,” said Bill McCoshen, a Republican strategist based in Madison, Wis. “The base is a little bit different than it was even one or two cycles ago, and Trump has a lot to do with that. These are people who are impatient, they are looking for stuff to get done … If you are not an agent of change, they’re going to look for a different option.”