It is said by Paul Begala and others that the establishment in the party was out of touch and could not see the estrangement that had occurred between the base and its leadership. Moreover, if you listen to the angry, they blame this chasm on the establishment. Begala, too, suggests the leadership was at fault for not seeing it.
But here is another way to look at it. The reason it all happened was because of the a.m. radio, adversarial media and conspiracy culture that formed over the last 15 or so years. It fed the base an orientation that has now metastasized. People looked the other way when attack radio became paradigmatic. Elites no doubt funded it. They probably thought that having an ornery base was good. So the age of partisan journalism, attack radio, Clive Bundy and conspiracy theory was born. It was this very happenstance in political culture that destroyed the Republican Party. It was not that elites were too aristocratic to pay attention to the needs of "their people." They woke up one day and realized cancer had been diagnosed in the body politic.
(This 536 story on high level of party dissatisfaction with any of the 3 Republican choices made me compose this comment).