The desperation grows.

Donald Trump has now reached his highest point in polls, garnering 35 percent in the latest CBS/New York Times poll. The second place contender, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) trails by a longshot at 16 percent; establishment favorite-nouveau Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) clocks in at just 9 percent, while former establishment favorite Jeb Bush is down at 3 percent.

Establishment Republicans have now entered a state of open panic, with Karl Rove writing, “Donald Trump would be the dream opponent for the Democratic Party. We’ll see in the next four months whether that matters to Republicans.” The establishment is so desperate that they’re now hoping for a one of two solutions: a Mitt Romney comeback or a brokered convention.

The Return Of The 2012 Near-King has been long rumored but little believed. Huffington Post reports that the window is closed for such a run by Romney, thanks to filing deadlines and fundraising barriers. But reporters Sam Stein and Scott Conroy say that Republican strategists are praying for Romney to intervene with Republican voters. One strategist said, “He would be, more than anyone else, the game-changer on the ground in New Hampshire.” A former Romney aide stated, “He probably won’t endorse right away. But I could see him feeling a moral obligation to do so if Trump still is around.”

Here’s why that won’t matter: Romney lost in 2012. While he still retains popularity among New Hampshire voters, that popularity is not transferable -- certainly not to a fellow establishment candidate. Trump’s support base will not crumble, and it certainly won’t crumble if Romney endorses someone perceived to be significantly more moderate than Trump. Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) told the Huffington Post, “Remember, [Romney’s] father wouldn’t endorse Goldwater. It is important what the establishment figures do to a nominee if the candidate is too far to the right.”

But if Romney mimics his father, that won’t stop Trump – it will just drive Trump to run third party. Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics now posits that the most likely scenario in 2016 is a brokered convention: “My most likely scenario is still that no one wins a sufficient number of delegates to claim the nomination.”

What would happen under such a scenario? Horse trading among the various delegate groups, deal-cutting, corruption in back rooms – all the stuff the Trump base hates most.

Which means he’ll run third party if he’s not the nominee. Which could effectively end both the 2016 presidential campaign as well as the Republican Party itself. If 25 percent of the Republican base bolts thanks to unease with Republican back-scratching, that will be the beginning of the end. So far, the Republican base’s unease has been confined to choosing outsider candidates within the Party. Once they leave, however, the chance for a viable third party begins to grow. And after eight years of Obama, another four years of Hillary Clinton will be a crushing blow to the Republicans, since Congressional Republicans will be unwilling/unable to stop her agenda, the same way Congressional Republicans have been unable tos top Obamacare, the Iran nuclear deal, executive amnesty, Obama’s military cuts, or anything else.

Trump could still lose. The GOP could back someone like Ted Cruz; the establishment could unify behind one candidate. Trump could collapse. But if none of those things happen, if Trump doesn't win the nomination outright, and if we end up with a brokered convention, we could be looking at Republican Armageddon. If so, the GOP has brought it on itself. Trump is just the horseman.