Eleven months ago, when Donald Trump was comically riding down the classy gold escalator in Trump Tower to announce his presidential run to the tittering press in the foyer, there were few people who fancied his chances.
How could a brassy real estate mogul and reality TV star, most famous for firing people, hoodwink the public into thinking that this was for real?
At the time I was one of the few people not laughing.
That's because I understood Trump was introducing three campaign elements into the race that had been successful for President Barack Obama but were still almost completely unheard of in traditional Republican circles: social media, showboats and show business.
Trump understood that social media is a platform that muscles past the traditional media to get the word out abut his candidacy. The Internet now surpasses the newspaper and Trump knows it. He knows most people get their news now in five-second bursts from their phone.
With his showboat flair Trump pushed past the media filter and spoke directly to the people where his provocative us versus them message spread like wildfire as the outsmarted journalists looked on.
From last June until this June the media have played a nonstop game of catch up as he led them all on a merry dance, dominating the conversation, never once being dominated by it. He was the show; they were just gawping spectators like everyone else.
Many modern journalists hate platforms like Twitter, rightly understanding the threat social media represents to their industry. It coarsens the national conversation by reducing it to attention grabbing 140 character soundbites, a development that most serious thinkers are instinctively leery of.
But for men like Trump, who think and talk in soundbites, platforms like Twitter are the best way to get an instant reaction, cause a commotion, and incite further support. If he succeeds in November it's because he has learned from Obama's 2008 campaign how to talk over the media filter directly to the people whose support he is ardently in search of.
But there was a wrinkle in this pied piper tale that few anticipated this month. On the first of June in an election year, the media and the people start to get serious about vetting their presidential picks.
They begin to ask the really tough questions. The kid gloves come off and the race begins.
It may seem astounding to say that Trump wasn't prepared for this degree of public scrutiny, but it is also the truth. He howled angrily at reporters at Trump Tower, where he railed against the newly probing press flanked by a wall of elderly veterans.
How dare these upstarts do their job and research Trump's movements, windy claims and bad decisions? What a bunch of jokers.
You make me look very bad, Trump told the press. “I have never received such bad publicity for doing a good job,” he whined.
Moments later he called out Tom Llamas, a journalist with ABC News. “I’m not looking for credit. But what I don’t want is, when I raise millions of dollars, have people say, like this sleazy guy right over here from ABC. He’s a sleaze in my book. You’re a sleaze because you know the facts and you know the facts well.”
This was brutal public intimidation, a thing unheard of in modern politics, and a bracing reminder of how unlike politics as usual Trump really is, and how thin skinned and bullying he really is.
If you write things about him he doesn't like he will remind you they are “probably libelous,” adding to scorn the real threat of retaliation. Playing chicken with the nation's media while simultaneously seeking the highest office in the land is something America has never seen from a frontrunner presidential candidate before.
But the real chink in his armor appeared last week for the first time when he claimed U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel's Mexican heritage represented “a conflict of interest.” Curiel is currently overseeing a fraud lawsuit against Trump University, a fact that enrages The Donald.
The law that applies to everyone else has rarely ever applied to Trump, and so his fury at being subject to so much scrutiny is genuine. His anger that his actions can be contradicted is real.
Consequences are for the little people, not the likes of him. As the election season intensifies and the questions become more cutting, expect to see him become increasingly Putin-like, increasingly contemptuous of the very process he volunteered to participate in.