It looks like the Republican establishment is trying to figure out how to control the Trump tsunami. Let him speak and say outrageous things so that the less flamboyant candidates can gently distance themselves so they’ll appear to be less toxic after he flames out, but still capitalize on what he’s said so that the “mainstream” candidates can fold his followers into their campaigns without seeming to be too racist even for NASCAR.
The problem with that is that the Republican establishment is counting on Donald Trump to either go too far and fall out of favor, or get bored and move on to the next shiny object. (The current conventional wisdom seems to think that he will be out sometime after the Iowa caucuses but before the Florida primary.) Those sound like desperate hopes rather than educated political estimates.
There’s also the problem if Mr. Trump flames out too early. If he decides by Halloween that the race isn’t worth running and he’s bored, he’ll leave the GOP with the likes of Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum to pick up the wingnut slack, and so far they’re all pulling single digits even in favorable polls. They’ll end up with another mainstream candidate, the right wingers will say that they’ve been sold out, and the party continues lurching along.