The presidential primary has been a wrenching experience for the GOP so far — and it’s about to get even worse.
Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich have all backed away from their pledge to support the party's eventual nominee, foreshadowing a fight at the convention and beyond that could cleave the GOP into warring factions.
Instead of helping to unify the GOP behind a candidate, as the primary process typically does, the race has instead created deep wounds between the candidates that are unlikely to heal.
The antagonism has been heightened by a particularly vicious stretch of campaigning involving allegations of adultery and pictures of the candidates’ wives.
Many Republicans strategists say they don't think Trump will attempt a third-party bid if he fails to win the nomination, given that it’s too late to get on the ballot in most states.
But should Trump opt for a write-in campaign, it could effectively dash any Republican hopes of beating the Democratic candidate.
"Republicans — the core Republicans — are going to rally around” the nominee no matter who it is, O'Connell insisted.
Still, "the enthusiasm is with Trump. How other candidates might pick that up if they're the nominee is an open question," O'Connell added.