WASHINGTON — Already heading for retirement, former U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent lamented the direction of his Republican Party.
Conservative purity tests, said Dent, of Allentown, had been replaced by a new measuring stick: "Now, since Donald Trump, the litmus test is loyalty to an individual."
His words last October were punctuated by primary election results Tuesday night, when a conservative congressman who had clashed with Trump, South Carolina's Mark Sanford, was drummed out of office.
"We are the party of Donald J. Trump," said Katie Arrington, who defeated Sanford.
On the same night, Virginia Republicans nominated a hard-right Senate candidate, Corey Stewart, who has made racially charged attacks on immigrants and supported confederate symbols.
Those results came a week after another Republican, U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, was forced into an Alabama runoff after failing to win a majority in her primary. In 2016, Roby said she would not vote for Trump after the Access Hollywood tape showed the president boasting about grabbing women's genitals.
The results were only the latest examples of how the GOP has fully embraced Trump and his incendiary style, from Pennsylvania and New Jersey to Arizona to Tennessee and in the halls of Congress — two years after many Republican insiders opposed him in primaries and predicted he would lose.
Now, the Republican ticket in Pennsylvania is led by Senate candidate Lou Barletta — a congressman who made his name as an immigration hard-liner and has hitched his campaign to Trump — and Scott Wagner, a confrontational businessman who has vowed to "take out the trash in Harrisburg." This week he vowed to take on "Never Trump Hollywood elites" in a Facebook post.
In South Jersey, Republicans in a swing district nominated Seth Grossman, a Trump-supporting attorney who has called diversity "a bunch of crap." He'll be on the ballot in place of Rep. Frank LoBiondo, who represented the district for more than 20 years and made his name as a relative moderate. LoBiondo isn't running.
Even a lawmaker with a purely conservative voting record on fiscal issues — Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona — found he couldn't survive a GOP primary after criticizing Trump's conduct and showing a softer side on immigration.
With Flake's political scalp serving as a kind of warning sign, the rest of the GOP has been largely silenced as Trump has torn up conservative orthodoxy and democratic norms. He has launched a trade war, shown no concern about rising government debt, and urged closer relations with Russia.
More broadly, Trump has embraced personal insults, racially charged attacks, and disdain for institutional guardrails.
National security represents one of the most striking measures of Trump's influence: Republican support for Russian President Vladimir Putin rose from 11 percent to 27 percent between 2015 and 2017, according to the Pew Research Center.
Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), this week called GOP fealty to Trump "cult-like."
He and Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) tried to fight Trump's recent tariffs, but were muffled by fellow Republicans who didn't want a fight.
It's not hard to see why.
Republicans like Corker who have criticized Trump have faced a fierce backslash from GOP voters — and the wrath of Trump's Twitter feed.
Corker is bowing out of politics and Sanford's hopes were damaged from an Election Day presidential Twitter blast. A former governor, Sanford lost by around 2,500 votes.
"I've never before had a question of allegiance to a person, rather than allegiance to the flag and Constitution, and to a degree that's what this race came down to," Sanford later told MSNBC.
Trump supporters say the results reflect the will of voters drawn to the president's message.
"I don't think the president is demanding loyalty, I think the Republican electorate is demanding it," said David Urban, a senior adviser to Trump's campaign in Pennsylvania and onetime chief of staff to Sen. Arlen Specter.
Many Trump supporters appreciate the president's combative style and disregard for traditional political courtesies. Others who criticize his style have faith that Trump's policies will help them.
Some Republicans, though, see danger in tying their brand to such a polarizing person and style.
"This is clearly not the Republican Party I once knew, loved and proudly served," tweeted Bill Bolling, a former Virginia lieutenant governor responding to Stewart's victory. "Every time I think things can't get worse they do, and there is no end in sight."
Although Trump's poll numbers have ticked up overall on the back of a surging economy, a majority still disapproves of his performance, and polling suggests the president is a major liability in the kind of moderate, suburban areas likely to decide control of the U.S. House this fall — including several districts around Philadelphia.
"You have independents right now who are looking for a check and balance, and that's 15 to 20 percent of an electorate in any suburban Philadelphia district," said U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, of Chester County, who is not seeking reelection.
At the same time, Costello said Trump supporters have urged him to give the president space to work — expressing faith that his negotiating skill will win out in the end.
Rep. Mike Turzai, the speaker of the Pennsylvania state House, has created a new political group to help support state-level GOP candidates running outside Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, where Republican insiders have worried about the political fallout of having two Trump-styled nominees leading their ticket.
There were similar predictions of GOP doom in 2016, only for Trump to score a major upset in Pennsylvania.
But there are warning signs that Trump's brand doesn't work for other Republicans who lack his celebrity and swagger. State Rep. Rick Saccone pledged to be Trump's "wingman" in a bid for Congress, but lost a special election in March in deep red Southwestern Pennsylvania.
In New Jersey, some Democrats are dreaming about a sweep of the state's congressional seats, banking on a backlash to the president.
Thirty-four percent of Garden State residents approve of the president's job performance, compared to 61 percent who disapprove, according to a Monmouth University poll published in April.
The state provides a stark warning about the dangers of tying a party's fortunes to one big personality, said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
New Jersey's GOP "has been in shambles since Chris Christie," he said, referring to the governor's departure after a rocky tenure. "That's what we're seeing with the Republican Party nationally. It's becoming all about Trump. And when Trump is off the scene, what happens to that party?"
Staff writer Andrew Seidman contributed to this report.