IN A week’s time, the race for the Republican nomination could be all but over. Donald Trump has already won three of the first four contests. On March 1st, Super Tuesday, 12 more states will vote. Mr Trump has a polling lead in all but three of them. Were these polls to translate into results, as they have so far, Mr Trump would not quite be unbeatable. It would still be possible for another candidate to win enough delegates to overtake him. But that would require the front-runner to have a late, spectacular electoral collapse of a kind that has not been seen before. Right now the Republican nomination is his to lose.
Worse, it might not stop there. Polls show that 46% of Americans of voting age have a “very unfavourable” opinion of Mr Trump, which suggests his chances of winning a general election are slight. But Mr Trump’s political persona is more flexible than that of any professional politician, which means he can take it in any direction he wants to. And whoever wins the nomination for either party will have a decent chance of becoming America’s next president: the past few elections have been decided by slim margins in a handful of states. When pollsters ask voters to choose in a face-off between Mr Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner wins by less than three percentage points. Mr Trump would have plenty of time to try to close that gap. An economy that falls back into recession or an indictment for Mrs Clinton might do it for him.