Barring some politically earth-shaking event, Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for president. Soon afterward, the Republican establishment will fall in line behind him.

You may hear rumors now of Republicans planning a coup at the convention, or backing an independent candidacy, or switching to support Hillary Clinton, but this is almost entirely fantasy.

How do I know? Because I live in Maine.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage, one of just two governors currently backing Trump’s candidacy, often likes to compare himself to The Donald.

“People say I’m a lot like Donald Trump. I find him a little bit shy, so we are going to get him out of his shell,” said LePage Thursday, introducing Trump at a Portland rally.

Both have similar personas of angry populism and make similar claims about not being afraid to say what they think, even if others would consider them offensive or racist. They both cast themselves as political outsiders, and both subject those with whom they disagree to vulgar attacks.

Also similarly, both men seem to have no real interest in actually governing and cover for their inch-deep grasp of policy with angry bluster. For both of them, their plain-spoken truthtelling is also often a ruse. Few other politicians abuse the truth so much in such obvious ways as Trump and LePage.

In 2010, when LePage won the Republican nomination for governor, it was a break with past political orthodoxy as dramatic as the one we are seeing writ nationally today. He was not yet quite as controversial a figure as he is now (having aged like a corked wine), but he had made a series of outrageous comments, was willingly associating with extreme individuals and groups and was already displaying a troubling lack of understanding of basic policy and governance.

“I am deathly afraid of Paul LePage winning the primary,” wrote Bangor Daily News columnist Matthew Gagnon at the time, noting that he was specifically concerned about LePage pandering to a group of anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists “who believe in black helicopters coming to get them.”

“Not all LePage supporters are crazy. But some of his closest advisors are crazy. And he is openly courting the fringe,” wrote Republican lawyer Dan Billings on an online message board in 2010. “The problem with LePage is in every debate he says things that are both stupid and factually wrong.”

LePage also received an anti-endorsement from the Bowdoin College Republicans, with their president, Steve Robinson, expressing concern “that he’s going to get elected, but he’s going to conduct himself in a manner to discredit future Republicans.”

So what happened to these proud establishment Republicans?

Gagnon went on to be digital director for the Republican Governors Association, where he helped plan the strategy, including a series of anti-immigrant, race-baiting ads, that helped LePage win a second term. He now heads the Maine Heritage Policy Center and makes frequent appearances with the governor.

Billings became Gov. LePage’s chief legal counsel, a close adviser, and is now a Maine Superior Court justice, thanks to a nomination by LePage.

Robinson became an attack-dog blogger and one of LePage’s most strident and least ethical public supporters. He now works as a producer on the right-wing Howie Carr radio show, the venue LePage chose to make his endorsement of Trump.

This fealty to LePage from every corner of the Maine Republican Party has continued even as he has said far more outrageous things, associated more with extreme groups and had the opportunity to take even more damaging public actions.

The Republican establishment was so in lockstep behind LePage by his re-election that Olympia Snowe, who had recently retired from the U.S. Senate, took a break from her book tour promoting political moderation and consensus-building to headline a fundraiser for the immoderate and consensus-destroying LePage.

Members of the Republican establishment didn’t get to where they are by failing to recognize opportunities. They built the angry, resentful, populist machine that Trump has now taken control of as part of a cynical strategy to advance their reactionary and pro-corporate policies, and they will try to find a way to use him in the same way.

The mechanisms of a Trump campaign and a Trump-controlled party and the potential they will see in the possibility of a Trump administration will begin to draw them in like moths to a racist flame.

If Trump wins the nomination, and especially if he wins the presidency, shudder to think, his own ideological and rhetorical brand will become the basis of a new establishment, just as LePage wiped away 100 years of moderate Republicanism in Maine and remade his party in his image.

Mike Tipping is a political junkie who works for the Maine People’s Alliance. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @miketipping