The core of today's Republican Party is not conservative, or even republican, in the classic sense. Today's GOP is authoritarian. Their rise to power was based upon two Faustian bargains; first, with the southern segregationists who abandoned the Democratic Party, secondly with Christian fundamentalists. It is those two strains - Jim Crow and Jerry Falwell - that are the core of the GOP. Until that makeup changes, and there is a real change of power, Republicans will wander in the wilderness, becoming increasingly irrelevent.
That hard rightcore has doomed the Republican Party, lost in a morass of paranoia, fear and loathing, fueled by the likes of Limbaugh, Beck, Fox News, Dobson, etc. What is there left, but laughable conspiracy theories, stubborn denial of reality, racism, gays and abortion? And defending torture? Is this madness? Has the Party of Reagan become the Party of Torture?
This will only change once a new generation of Republicans challenges and expells this hardcore base. But how can you win any election by abandoning your own base? And there's the trap.