No major political party has ever nominated anyone like this. If Trump were to prevail, it would make Barack Obama’s unlikely rise from unknown state senator to first African-American president of the United States in about four years look like a boringly conventional political trajectory.
Obama seemed to come out of nowhere, but his steps to the presidency — law degree, state office, U.S. senator — were stereotypical. Trump won the Republican nomination despite — or because of? — attributes that would have seemed disqualifying two years ago, such as, to name a few, his personal life, his longtime support for Democrats, his newly minted, hard-to-credit social conservatism, his disdain for Republican orthodoxy, and his basic lack of preparation.
Trump now has a legitimate shot at winning the general because he got the lucky draw of at least the second-worst presidential nominee in recent memory and, pending how she fares over the next two months, perhaps the worst.
All it took for Trump to wipe away most of Hillary’s lead, built at an excellent convention and on Trump’s subsequent weeks of self-inflicted wounds, was acting like a somewhat normal presidential candidate. Have a meeting with a foreign leader. Give some policy speeches. Read from a teleprompter at rallies. Use his NPR voice when appropriate.
None of this required strategic genius, only a decision not to throw away the election with repeated episodes of self-indulgent stupidity. Throw on top of that the FBI’s document dump before Labor Day and Hillary’s near-collapse at New York’s 9/11 memorial, and the race may be headed toward a tie nationally.