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The conflict over the House speaker is a microcosm of the GOP’s larger dilemma.

In 2008, Sen. John McCain recognized he had a problem: The Republican voting base wasn’t very enthusiastic about his candidacy. Mitt Romney weathered a number of surging opponents to become the party’s nominee. In 2010, GOP leaders managed to harness that energy enough to win the House. In 2014, backlash against immigration provided leverage for the base-commentariat to oust House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. A year later, Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy. And Trump, thanks in part to energizing the base, squeaked by Hillary Clinton in enough states.