Why the Sudden Love Among Establishment Republicans for Trump?

It has been quite an experience -- half amusing, half alarming -- to behold the sudden transformation of Donald Trump from pariah to desperate hope of the Republican Party. As it happens, the moment of metanoia can be located with some precision.

Enlightenment, or perhaps it was only calculation of self-interest, came just a week ago on Monday, January 4. It was then that Donald Trump, responding to Hillary Clinton’s charge that he was “sexist,” said that Bill Clinton was “one of the great women abusers of all time” and, not-so-by-the-way, that Hillary was an “enabler” of his behavior.

Bang.

Overnight, Bill Clinton went from being one of Hillary’s biggest assets to being a liability of incalculable proportions, about as useful to her presidential ambitions as last year’s sloughed off skin is to a snake.

Who else could have accomplished that? It wasn’t what Trump said; it wasn't even how he said it, not really. It was who said it.

Donald Trump yesterday: an embarrassment, a “complete idiot” (Karl Rove), “offensive and outlandish” (Marco Rubio). “Every candidate for president,” wrote Lindsey Graham (remember him?) in a tweet, “needs to do the right thing & condemn” Trump.

But that was yesterday. Now we find many Republicans clustering round The Donald.

Phyllis Schlafly described Trump as “the last hope for America,” while Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican Party, recently said that Trump was among the “varsity” candidates. “Look at our debates. We’re blowing the doors off these debates,” Priebus crowed. “They’re becoming like World Series-type events that we could never have predicted.”

And why is that?

After Trump, in the aftermath of the Islamic terrorist slaughter in San Bernardino, called for a complete moratorium on Muslim immigration to the U.S., Jeb Bush tweeted that Trump was “unhinged.”

A clueless Bush supporter named Mike Murphy paid for a billboard that read “Donald Trump is unhinged. -- Jeb Bush". Hot Air called it “the saddest political ad ever.” It took about five minutes with Photoshop to show why. In two shakes of a comb-over the internet was abuzz with a version that read:

“Set all our donor money on fire.” -- Mike Murphy.

What’s going on? A large segment of the Republican political establishment, blindsided by Trump’s success, has decided -- cautiously, in a hedging-your-bets sort of way -- that Trump might just have what it takes to beat Hillary.