“For one thing, somebody like Pence in the past would have had a certain appeal to evangelical voters that is less strong now because evangelicals, in embracing Trump, have changed their character,” Mr. Wehner said, adding, “The kind of appeal that a guy like Pence had is just not as great.”
Mr. Trump’s health problems, coming on top of a looming election that polls show Republicans at considerable risk of losing, have added greater urgency to the debate inside the Republican Party over its future and whether its next leader should be someone who emulates Mr. Trump. No small number of conservatives believe their political victories over the last four years would have been impossible without Mr. Trump’s defiance of political norms and his frequent disregard for civility and compromise in domestic and foreign affairs.
As evidence, they point to actions Mr. Trump has taken that they said other Republican presidents would have been too restrained to pull off, no matter how conservative they were, such as moving the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and pulling out of international agreements such as the Paris climate accords and the pact on nuclear development with Iran.
“It took Trump’s determination to get these things done,” Mr. Perkins said.
Republican elected officials have tried to copy Mr. Trump’s renegade style, with varying degrees of success. It’s difficult for most politicians to do. Some conservatives said that when they look at the senators and governors who are considered to be the next generation of Republican leadership, they do not see anyone capable of replicating Mr. Trump’s style and having the same command over the public’s attention.
“There has to be a level of shamelessness that is not easy to achieve,” said Yuval Levin, director of Social, Cultural and Constitutional Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
If most of the stylistic aspects of his leadership can’t be copied, there are still some things about him that could carry over. One, said Mr. Levin, is the skepticism that Mr. Trump sows about government institutions, from the intelligence services he accuses of undermining him to the Federal Reserve he claims is stifling economic growth. Doubt about the trustworthiness of the country’s governance has been an animating feature of the American right, most recently as a force behind the Tea Party movement in 2009.