There are times when you can look at Donald Trump, presidential candidate, and almost see something normal. Or certain Republicans can, anyway. Newt Gingrich—the former speaker of the House, a man who has spent his life seeing things others could not—can.
“Here you have a guy who is talented enough to come from a standing start and dominate every poll, who has won state after state, who dominates the media, who has brought thousands of Democrats and independents into the party,” Gingrich told me, referring to primaries in which non-Republicans are allowed to vote. Under normal circumstances, he said, party leaders would be celebrating the arrival of such a figure.
But Trump is not a normal circumstance. Even as he barrels toward the nomination—winning at least three of the five big states voting on Tuesday, knocking Marco Rubio out of the race, and claiming a large lead with more than half the delegates awarded—his party remains mostly in shock at his rise. Over the past week, as he has refused to discourage the violence erupting at his events, many in his party say they are frightened by the specter of authoritarianism and the possibility of escalating conflict.
But in other precincts, it’s possible to detect a thaw. They couldn’t beat him. And now many Republicans say it may be time to join him, to make the best of the situation, to try to refine and civilize Trump, to nudge his candidacy toward normalcy.