Since Donald Trump’s rambling campaign announcement in June, detractors have been quick to dismiss the candidacy of the celebrity tycoon. But the doldrums of August have officially ended, and after a long, hot summer, Trump’s campaign still seems to be thriving. (If anything, he’s at least paying his staffers.)
Here are five points on how Trump’s unlikely campaign has made him the GOP frontrunner:
Trump’s poll numbers so far look similar to Mitt Romney’s in the 2012 race
Trump’s campaign was initially compared to early 2012 frontrunners Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. But according to the Washington Post, Trump’s poll numbers so far have closely mirrored that of eventual 2012 nominee Mitt Romney.
In the summer of 2011, Perry and Gingrich maintained a 10-point or higher lead for about two weeks, as Trump did this year. But as the Post zoomed out on the Republican contest, it showed Perry’s and Gingrich’s numbers fell as Romney’s rose. Trump has similarly started to leave his competitors behind. The Post noted that not every campaign’s support looks the same, but the numbers remain compelling.
Trump has seemingly bypassed the Republican need to be religious
Trump recently named his top two favorite books: His own “Art of the Deal” took the second spot behind the Bible. However, when Bloomberg Politics asked the GOP frontrunner to name his favorite Bible verses, he refused to comment. When reporters asked what church he belonged to, the church he named said the he wasn’t an “active member.”
Despite Trump’s attempts to sidestep the traditional religious devoutness asked of Republican candidates, it hasn’t hurt him. In Iowa, a poll from the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics on Tuesday found that 57 percent of likely Republican caucus voters weren’t bothered by his lack of faith. The exact question: “Donald Trump says he is a Christian and goes to church but never has asked God for forgiveness. Does this bother you or not?”.
Trump leads national polls against all odds
After the summer of Trump, which included giving children helicopter rides and signature Make America Great Again™ hats, it’s hard to greet any poll that shows the real estate mogul at the top of the Republican field with surprise.
He’s been steadily gaining all summer and as of Tuesday led his nearest opponent by an average of 14.5 percent, according to Real Clear Politics. (His nearest rival is former neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson.) Trump spent the summer attacking Fox News host Megyn Kelly, as well as the channel itself. He questioned Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) status as a prisoner of war, and described Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug runners. Despite all that, during the “summer of silliness” (as rival Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal put it), his support has only solidified.
It’s en vogue to not be from Washington
Poll numbers all summer have indicated that likely caucus and primary voters are drawn to political outsiders. On Monday, Monmouth University released a poll with a solid majority that confirms it. Sixty-six percent of Iowa GOP caucusgoers said regardless who they will ultimately vote for, the country needs “someone outside of government who can bring a new approach to Washington.” A poll from Aug. 25 found that 61 percent of likely South Carolina GOP primary voters also believed someone from outside of the government was needed.
Trump leads in all the early primary states
To cash in on that huge national lead, Trump needs to win 1,144 delegates to secure the nomination. Delegates are rewarded proportionally as caucus and primary votes come in, starting with Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada in February 2016.
For now, Trump has maintained leads in these states. Real Clear Politics on Tuesday showed Trump with a 5 percent average lead in Iowa, 15.6 percent lead in New Hampshire and 19.7 percent average lead in South Carolina. An average for polling in Nevada was not available due to lack of data, but a Gravis poll in mid-July showed Trump leading the state by 13 percent.