The political media has a tendency to shift its narratives to the extreme. At first, Donald Trump had no chance of winning the GOP nomination; now, he's running a genius campaign that not even we can quite understand.
But there is one immutable truth that is following Trump: No matter how savvy his primary campaign has been, it is doing him exactly zero favors when it comes to the general election. That was true back in June when he launched his campaign by calling illegal Mexican immigrants "rapists" and "criminals," and it's even truer today.
In fact, as Trump has earned some of his best primary numbers to date and appears to be the clear favorite to become the GOP nominee, his image with the broader electorate is worse than at any point since he launched his campaign. At this point, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows a significant majority of Americans (56 percent) view Trump "strongly unfavorably." In total, 67 percent view him unfavorably, either "somewhat" or "strongly."
Both of those numbers register new highs in Post-ABC polling since Trump's June campaign launch. The only time they were about as bad was in May, before he launched his campaign. At that point, even Republicans were overwhelmingly negative on Trump, prompting us to declare Trump should not be taken seriously, even in the primary.
Since then and to his credit, Trump has rallied a sizable segment of the Republican Party to his cause -- often with divisive rhetoric that turns off much of the rest of the party and Democrats. He's got a constituency hovering around half of the GOP, though most Republican voters say they would be okay with voting for him the general election.
But winning most Republican voters or even GOP-leaning independents who show up in primaries isn't enough. How in the world is Trump going to win a general election if two-thirds of people don't like him and 56 percent feel that way "strongly?" (By contrast, a slight majority -- 52 percent -- say they don't like Hillary Clinton, including 41 percent "strongly.")
Three-fourths of self-described moderates and 64 percent of self-described independents view Trump unfavorably. That's just not a recipe for actually being elected president.
At the same time, analysts like The Fix remain reluctant to declare that Trump has no chance at the presidency. We've been burned once before, after all, and far be it from us to doubt the man yet again and make ourselves look dumb.
Perhaps General Election Trump will win over people who didn't previously like him just like Republican Primary Trump has done? Perhaps people don't need to actually like Trump in order to vote for him? Perhaps they will hate Clinton even more eventually? All of those are at least plausible results that could result in a President Trump. Who knows?
But here's what we also know: The American people as a whole have gotten a steady dose of Donald Trump and his politics over the past nine months, leaving little doubt as to where he stands on the issues of the day. The divisive positions he's taking may well endear him to a bare majority of Republicans, but they are not a general election strategy.
For Trump to pull off winning the presidency, lightning will indeed have to strike twice.