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Brown: Trump fooled me once, not twice

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump on January 14, 2016 and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton on February 4, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / DSKDSK/AFP/Getty Images

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I’ll admit it. I am part of the news media establishment that did not take Donald Trump seriously as a presidential candidate.

As recently as December, I would have told you he never stood a chance of winning a single primary, let alone the Republican nomination.

Based on experience, I was certain that once the voting started most of those people supporting him in the opinion polls would either snap out of it or drift away, followed soon by Trump himself.

How’s that for having a finger on the pulse of America?

You won’t actually find those opinions reflected in my columns, or hardly any mention of Trump at all for that matter. But that’s what I was telling readers who were emailing me to either extol Trump’s virtues or predict our doom.

It seemed to me to be better to ignore Trump and let his certain slide happen on its own rather than get caught up in the anti-Trump frenzy that only seemed to stoke his popularity.

Self-delusion is no longer an option.

OPINION

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On Wednesday, the latest Quinnipiac University Poll re-affirmed what it has been telling us for some time:

Trump is not only favored nationally by Republicans over his two surviving GOP opponents, but he also comes within shouting distance of prevailing in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup with the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Clinton tops Trump 46 percent to 40 percent, according to the Quinnipiac poll, which I expect is closer than many Democrats would have imagined.

My personal rule — often violated — is to pay no attention to such polls, which are often wrong and are certainly too early in this case to have much predictive value.

And yes, two other polls released Wednesday — by Bloomberg and Fox News — show Clinton with a much healthier lead over Trump.

But the Quinnipiac survey should definitely serve as a warning sign to all Democrats to start regarding Trump as a serious opponent, rather than assuming he will be a certain disaster for the entire Republican ticket.

He could turn out to be such a disaster, and as I suggested the other day in a column, that’s certainly where my rooting interest will be for Republican candidates who choose not to distance themselves from him.

A reader called me on the carpet for that and wondered how I could be certain that Gov. Bruce Rauner’s pledge to support Trump — if he is the nominee — won’t bring more support to the governor.

Truth is I can’t. Trump has out-maneuvered the entire Republican field thus far with the party establishment arrayed against him, so it is certainly not out of the question that he could outsmart the Democrats as well.

It’s not as if Democrats have settled on a particularly popular standard-bearer.

While 54 percent of the Quinnipiac respondents said they “would definitely not” vote for Trump, another 43 percent said they would definitely not vote for Clinton.

Oddly enough, the same poll shows Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders continuing to do better in a head-to-head battle with Trump than Clinton, besting the billionaire businessman 52 percent to 38 percent.

I’m not particularly enthusiastic about either of the Democratic candidates.

It’s not as if anybody who supports Trump would be swayed by my words or that anybody who reads me regularly would have any doubts about my opinion that he is totally unsuitable to become president — the worst contender since George Wallace.

Still, it pains me to be so out of touch with such a large segment of the American people who would think otherwise.

During my lifetime, this has been a country where two-party politics always played out within certain parameters, driven by candidates trying to control the middle and by a public determined above all to keep the train on the tracks.

Take it from an old railroader. You don’t want to be the person responsible for causing the derailment.

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