Donald Trump came out of the Republican National Convention with a big bounce in a number of polls. Now public opinion on that convention has decidedly soured, once again altering the direction of the race.
Gallup has even found that for the first time in all its years of polling on this question, the GOP convention was a net negative for the nominee.
Has the Republican convention in Cleveland now gone the way of the party's 1992 gathering in Houston?
The conventional wisdom, no pun intended, was that the '92 GOP convention was a disaster that mortally wounded George H.W. Bush's re-election prospects. Newsweek described it as "double-ply, wall-to-wall ugly." A Chicago Tribune headline declared "hate, not compassion, was the coin of the realm." The Boston Globe said the party's platform was "loaded with puritanical, punitive language."
Yet some of the initial verdicts, according to pundits and polling, weren't so dire. Even the night of Pat Buchanan's infamous "culture war" speech — Ronald Reagan spoke the same evening — saw a Bush bounce. One poll showed Bush going from down 17 points to trailing Bill Clinton by just 3 points with a 6-point lead among male voters.
David Brinkley said Buchanan's speech was "astoundingly good," and Sander Vanocur called it "the most skillful attempt to remind the party faithful of the role that ideas have played in American politics since Eugene McCarthy nominated Adlai Stevenson at the 1960 Democratic convention." Reviews of Reagan's final convention address remain glowing nearly a quarter century later.
The "wall-to-wall ugly" narrative, filled with darkly apocalyptic speeches about race wars, is what ultimately held. After trailing for much of the previous year, Bill Clinton took a big lead at his own party's convention at Madison Square Garden and never looked back.
Is that what's in store for Trump? In addition to days of coverage pounding home some of the controversies in Cleveland, the Democrats have now held their own convention in Philadelphia and are enjoying their own bounce.
Trump has also touched off another of his media firestorms, publicly feuding with the parents of a Muslim-American soldier who was killed in action in Iraq after the father attacked the GOP nominee in a Democratic convention speech. And he has started raising the possibility of a "rigged' general election, all of which could be dragging his numbers down.
Even John McCain surged after the 2008 Republican convention. The trouble is, these polling gains can be short-lived, and the next day's headlines don't always define major political events for all time.