It's been eight months since Donald Trump proposed banning all Muslims from entering the United States, more than a year since he disparaged Sen. John McCain's service in Vietnam, and much longer since he became known for general belligerence and tastelessness. So his recent politically self-immolating feud with the Muslim American parents of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in action in Iraq, should dismay but not surprise anyone who has been paying attention.
Nevertheless, with the conventions over and the election nearer, more voters and more of the Republican establishment have begun to grapple with Trump's unfitness for high office - so much so that just weeks after he accepted the nomination, many Republicans are hurriedly looking up the party's return policy.
However unlikely the possibility, another nominee would certainly behoove Republicans and, indeed, the republic. Many voters have serious and justified reservations about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and deserve a viable alternative. The polls - a long-beloved Trump metric that he only recently dismissed as "phony"- suggest he is rapidly losing support; a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll found Clinton winning even in Georgia. Relatively strong support for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, meanwhile, shows dissatisfaction with both major-party candidates.
Clinton, however, isn't very far ahead in every poll and could be enjoying a temporary postconvention glow. That Trump remains separated from the presidency by little more than the margin of error in some surveys suggests more important reasons for the party to consider extraordinary measures. The reality-television star's evident volatility presents risks that have conservative national security experts sounding alarms. His repeated suggestions that the United States should become a nuclear aggressor, for example, prompted John Noonan - a former Air Force nuclear launch officer who advised Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush on national security policy - to wonder on Twitter, "Does he understand just how F'ing dangerous that is?"
Of course, the danger of Trump was obvious to many the day he announced his campaign by grotesquely caricaturing Mexican immigrants as rapacious criminals. Since then, he has only redoubled his efforts to inflame divisions and foretell disaster while offering no coherent policy or program beyond his person.
So is it as late as it seems for Republicans to do anything about this? The party bylaws do allow the Republican National Committee to replace a nominee who withdraws from the race. That would also mean getting ballots changed state by state, with the earliest deadlines to do so already past and others fast approaching.
There is at least one precedent for changing a ballot after the deadline, for which Republicans can thank New Jersey Democrats. During a 2002 Senate race, they persuaded the state Supreme Court to approve a twelfth-hour replacement of scandal-crippled Sen. Bob Torricelli well after the deadline on the grounds that voters should have choices.