On Thursday night, 106 days since his last opponent dropped out of the Republican primaries, 28 days since he accepted the nomination and 82 days until Election Day, Donald Trump started running for president.
This is sort of an exaggeration, but only sort of. At a rally in North Carolina, Trump gave a speech that was the sort of speech that presidential candidates give, not the sort that Donald Trump gives. Speeches are one of the three ways that Trump gets himself into trouble (the other two being interviews and Twitter) so let's not get too crazy assuming that Thursday-night-Trump is here to stay. But just in case he is, it's worth planting a flag on where the race was when this change (however fleeting!) was made.
Let's look back about a month, to July 18, just before the Republican convention began. The pattern is easy to describe: Trump got a bump from his convention that vanished under the wave of Hillary Clinton's. Coming out of the conventions, Clinton's lead peaked at about eight points a week ago. Since then, it has faded a bit, mostly because polls showing big Clinton leads have aged out of the RealClearPolitics average. She now leads in the average by six.
In the polls released over the past month, compiled by Huffington Post Pollster, Trump's ranged from 31 to 48 points. Clinton has ranged from 38 to 52. On average, Trump's averaging about 40 points and Clinton 45.
But there are some variations. Polls before the end of the Democratic convention showed a closer race (as you'd expect from the graph above). But there's also a difference in how the polls are conducted.
Here are all of those polls, 40 in total, by result and type. You can see that Clinton is consistently ahead.
Harder to notice is that there is a discrepancy in the results depending on if the poll is conducted online or by a live caller. Trump argues that this is precisely why he's behind, that his supporters don't want to tell people on the phone that they support him.
But Trump actually does better in live-caller polls after the conventions than Internet polls. In both types of polls, he saw declines after the conventions were over. Clinton (who also does better with live-caller polls) saw gains in both types after the conventions.
In the states, the picture is at times worse. In seven of the closest states, Trump trails across the board — usually by a bigger margin than Mitt Romney trailed (where he did) in 2012.
Even if Trump manages to stick to Thursday-style events and not trip over himself on Twitter or in interviews, the best-case scenario is that Trump now has 81 days to be a relatively normal presidential candidate — albeit one who is starting off being viewed very negatively by voters. If he's going to get the job done, this is the position from which he starts.