The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Boy, was I wrong about Donald Trump. Here’s why.

Donald Trump hails a new opinion poll that suggests his presidential campaign is gaining momentum ahead of the first Republican debate. (Video: Reuters)

Donald Trump is now doubling the rest of the Republican field in the average of the last five national polls. And polling out of early states like New Hampshire puts him in the pole position in those places too.

All of which makes having written a piece on June 17 headlined, "Why no one should take Donald Trump seriously, in one very simple chart" that argued why, well, no one should take Donald Trump seriously, pretty embarrassing. Not to mention wrong.

In case your detective work is at "True Detective" season 2 levels -- for non-show watchers, that means not so good -- I am the person who wrote that piece dismissing The Donald as even a semi-serious candidate for the presidency. My reasoning was pretty straightforward: Trump was regarded incredibly negatively by Republican voters. Twenty-three percent of GOP voters had a favorable opinion of Trump in a May Washington Post-ABC News poll, while 65 percent viewed him negatively. Eleven percent of Republicans felt strongly favorably toward Trump; 43 percent felt strongly negatively.

At the time, I wrote this:

You cannot and do not win anything when your numbers look like Trump's. I can't say it any more clearly than that. There's nothing you can say or do -- not that Trump would ever even consider going on an image rehabilitation tour -- to change how people feel about you. Republicans know Trump. And they really, really don't like him.

And then, opinions about Trump among Republicans totally flipped.

That same Post-ABC poll that showed Trump at 23/65 in his favorable/unfavorable ratings among Republicans in May suddenly revealed an absolutely unprecedented change in Trump's favor in July. In that latter (and later) poll, 57 percent of Republicans viewed Trump favorably, while 40 percent regarded him unfavorably.

That same sort of change was happening in other polls too. In June, a Fox News poll showed that almost six in 10 Republicans (59 percent) would never vote for Trump under any circumstances. In a Fox News survey released Monday night, that number was down to 33 percent. It's not great that one in three Republicans say they would never vote for you. But, it's a whole hell of a lot better than if 60 percent said it.

Why did I miss Trump's appeal so badly? Simply put: I had NEVER EVER seen a reversal in how people perceive a candidate who is as well known as Trump -- much less a reversal in such a short period of time. I based my conclusion that Trump would never be a relevant player in the Republican primary fight on the ideas that once people 1) know you and 2) don't like you, you can't change those twin realities much.

That was 100 percent true. Until Donald Trump proved it (and me) wrong.

Point taken. Never say "never" in politics. Thanks for reminding me of that old adage, Donald.