Wade you raise a lot of good points pointing to the frequent political dynamic of not only both the R's and D's, but pols everywhere through all time ie snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. While I don't agree with a number of your specifics, the general point remains.
However what I had in mind especially in my comment, and for some time now, is how many people seem to vote R but want the D program to a significant degree. The current health care debate illustrates this.
Many people voted for Trump, and R in general, but want the benefits and protections of the ACA. Or rather want, enhanced benefits and at least the current protections of the ACA.
R's frame this as "of course people want to keep stuff once they get it" as if the task of the R's is to protect people from themselves. Most people don't like the ACA not because it impinges on their liberty, but because it doesn't sufficiently solve the problem of obtaining medical insurance for people in the individual market.
Building on CK's comment, the R's sunk costs in the ideology of negative liberty have made it quite difficult for them to propose govt actions to even begin to solve the problems people identify themselves.
Put another way, Paul Ryan's frequent appeal for "conservative solutions" just about always, to this observer, privilege "conservative" over "solutions".
P Ryan's first assessment of the AHCA's chances of passage, something like "this is our only shot" seems to express a greater anxiety that they only have the WH and Con. majorities because of a variety manipulations they've been able to make to the electoral process, and to the biases of the processes itself. And they these are not durable against the long term trends. So it's "now or never" ie there is a basic desperation to their political calculus. My experience is that people do not make consistently good decisions under the duress of desperation. So a variant of political survival has already kicked in, and for the time being seems to be crowding out the form That JR wonders about