Donald Trump leads the Republican 2016 field in a new Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics of Iowa voters. But that's not the real story.
The real story is contained deeper in the poll. In May, when the Register last polled, 27 percent of likely Iowa GOP caucus-goers viewed Trump favorably while 63 percent regarded him unfavorably. In the new poll, which was released Saturday night, Trump's favorable number is at 61 percent and his unfavorable at 35 percent.
Let me put it another way: W-H-A-T???
Numbers just don't reverse themselves like that in the space of a few months (or ever). Especially when the politician in question is totally known by the electorate. Once you are both totally known and broadly disliked — as Trump was in May both in Iowa and everywhere else — you are doomed. One hundred times out of one hundred.
That's why I was SO certain of Trump's inability to matter at all in the 2016 race when he, somewhat stunningly, decided to enter it 70-odd days ago. In the almost 20 years — gulp — I have spent following politics closer than close, I've never seen anything like the total reversal in how Trump is perceived by Republican voters. It is, quite literally, unprecedented.
Compare how Trump's numbers have moved with, say, the stasis of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's favorable/unfavorable ratings:
The Trump candidacy has rewritten — or at least smudged — lots of the rules of conventional politics. He says things that would derail other peoples' candidacies. His shyness about specifics on, well, anything would be seen as a lightness bordering on cluelessness in other candidates. His pick-a-fight-a-day mentality would be seen as overly aggressive and tonally off if anyone else in the field did it.
But, of all the amazing things that Trump is doing — whether he realizes what it is he is actually doing — his ability to totally turn around his image is the most remarkable. It's not something we've seen before. And it may not be something we see again.