January 5, 2016

ROSS DOUTHAT: I UNDERESTIMATED DONALD TRUMP.

I sold Trump wildly short, and his entire campaign to date has proven it.

First, Trump has had a very easy time turning his celebrity fan base into a meaningful constituency. Exactly how meaningful remains to be seen, but for months far more Republicans have told pollsters that they intend to vote for him than have rallied to any other banner. They may not all be Trump voters in the end, but that there is a significant Trump faction in our politics no sane observer can deny.

Second, that faction has turned out to include precisely the kind of voters Romney needed in 2012 and who stayed home instead: Blue-collar whites with moderate views on economics and a weak attachment to the institutional G.O.P. (So weak, a recent New York Times analysis makes clear, that many are still registered Democrats.) These “missing white voters” might not have put Romney over the top, but they certainly would have helped his chances in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan — all places where Trump is running strongly at the moment.

Third, even as he’s wooed the disaffected and non-ideological, Trump has also won over or at least neutralized an important segment of the conservative media.

Hey, maybe he’s smarter than you think.

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