On July 20, Donald Trump took the lead in the Real Clear Politics average of national polling in the Republican presidential race. Today marks the 100th straight day he has held that front-runner status.
It's remarkable — at least to me — that Trump has been at the head of the GOP pack longer than Howard Dean led the Democratic field in 2003-04. Dean was, at the time, considered to be the clear front-runner for the nomination before his Iowa collapse and this legendary meltdown. Trump, by contrast, still seems to be treated as a bit of a sideshow and not the real deal.
There are some reasons to think that Trump won't make it to 200 days in the lead — or maybe even 110. For the first time in a long time, a national poll — this one conducted by the New York Times and CBS News — showed Ben Carson passing Trump in the ballot test.
Despite that slippage, Trump still has some cushion to work with. He's almost five points clear of Carson, according to the Real Clear Politics average.
Trump's longevity speaks to the fact that, like it or not, he has struck a real chord with a not-insignificant element of the Republican Party. Dismissing him as simply the latest incarnation of the 2012 craze that saw virtually every candidate spend a short period of time at the top of the polls undersells what Trump has meant to this race. Even if he drops out tomorrow — and he won't — Trump already has played a major role in driving Scott Walker from the contest and in weakening Jeb Bush's chances.
The only question now is how much longer Trump can hold on to the pole position.