At no point since the man came flying down his glitz-laden escalator has reflection been permitted to intrude upon his deliberations. Any polls that failed to show Trump dominating have been presumed to be biased or flawed, while those that flattered him have been celebrated without regard for methodology. Any evidence that Trump is doing disastrously with groups that Republicans have to win has been casually dismissed, the better to be explained away by aging outliers and good old-fashioned bluster. Any insecurities felt by his supporters, meanwhile, have been melted swiftly into generalities. It is not that they like the man and his agenda, but that all “real Americans” do; it is not that they represent a minority of the Republican electorate, but that they speak for the whole “middle class”; it is not that their hero is one contender among many, but that he is the savior of all “normal” people. Time and time again, the imperative is made clear: Whatever happens, Trump must be perceived to be conquering all before him. Number one! Number one! Number one!

Every campaign likes to talk up its guy. Every political ego needs a massage. But there is something especially fragile about the vehemence with which Trump and his team insist upon his primacy. Could it be, perchance, they know somewhere within their souls that bravado and bluster are compelling when exhibited from on high, but rather pathetic when they pour forth from the second spot or beyond? Could it be, perhaps, that “I’m doing pretty well” is understood to be lethal to the proposition, “I’m winning because I’m a winner”? Could it be, just maybe, that the word “loser” is a relative one?