All of which begs a very simple question: Can the Republican Party be led?
"I doubt it," longtime Republican strategist Mike Murphy said. "We'll be stuck in an age of chaos and factional warlords for a while. The battle royal will be the 2015 presidential primary season."
In some ways, the current split within the Republican Party is not unique. Parties that find themselves in the political wilderness often take an "eat their own" mentality in the near term before, eventually, one side wins.
Remember that Bill Clinton's emergence in the early 1990s was greeted with massive skepticism by the liberal wing of the party that had reigned supreme for the previous two decades. Clinton's victory in 1992 decisively ended the fight over the direction the Democratic Party would take.
"The party out of power never has a single focal point or even a common spokesperson," said Ed Rogers, a veteran Republican lobbyist and confidant of former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. "We have a congressional wing of the party, a governors wing, 2016 wannabes and assorted subgroups, all of which are divided themselves between establishment and anti-establishment factions."
Of course, even if the Republican Party's divide follows a similar trajectory, the next two years will be consumed with a series of small and large scale skirmishes for control of the party's rudder — each of which has the capacity to diminish a Republican brand already damaged in the eyes of the American public.
And, the desire among some within the GOP — the Paul/Cruz wing primarily — to purge the party of those who do not closely adhere to what they believe are first principles poses a major threat to the long-held idea of what it means to be a Republican.