After all, how could a vulgar reality TV star who called Mexican immigrants rapists and proposed banning Muslims from entering the U.S. while denigrating John McCain for getting captured in Vietnam and promising neomercantilist trade wars with China and Mexico possibly be the presidential nominee of a major American political party?
The view among elites on Wall Street and throughout corporate America was that after some laughs, voters would come to their senses and reject Trump. This view held that somehow, someway the fates would simply never allow Trump to win.
This could still wind up being true. But time is running short. Following Bush's exit, the establishment is furiously rallying around Florida Sen. Marco Rubio but it may be too late. It's not clear that Rubio can score a win in any of the March 1 Super Tuesday states. Trump has big leads both in the South and in Northeastern states including Massachusetts. His ragtag coalition, which includes less-educated, lower-income and older voters along with angry GOP moderates and independents, shows no signs of flagging.
And for now, the non-Trump vote will continue to be fractured among Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Kasich and Carson have no shot at winning but are both infected by the presidential ambition virus that keeps zombie hopes alive and makes dropping out difficult if not impossible.
Cruz, whose campaign is beset by allegations of dirty tricks, could score a home-state win in Texas on Super Tuesday making it less likely that he leaves before the next big set of primaries on March 15. That day could seal the nomination for Trump if he takes down Rubio in Florida.
It's still possible that the fight could go all the way to the GOP convention in Cleveland in July. But if Trump rolls in with a big delegate lead, how could the GOP deny him the nomination without causing a major revolt among his supporters that could drive the Democrats to an easy win in November?