After winning three of the first four nominating contests, Donald Trump hasn’t just hijacked the Republican Party but fractured it newly into three.
The populist billionaire’s rise to the pinnacle of Republican politics has upended what had been decades of relative GOP stability, a 40-year span in which most Republican presidential contests since 1976 neatly narrowed to an establishment-embraced front-runner and a conservative insurgent alternative.
Suddenly, there are three strands of Republicanism, each entrenched and vying for supremacy in 2016. Ted Cruz is the leader of the traditional conservative purists. Marco Rubio is emerging from the mud of a multicandidate brawl to lead the once-dominant, now diminished, mainstream lane of the GOP.
But it is Trump’s new alliance of angry populists that is ascendant — and on the precipice of dominance.
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