EVEN IF THE so-far-slippery, politically facile Donald Trump bounces back from Hillary Clinton's postconvention bump AND survives condemnation from veterans' groups, Gold Star moms, and calls for Republicans to disavow him, he still faces a heavy lift.
Even if he again manages to divert and move on from the mess he created with the American Muslim family whose Army son was killed in Iraq (then talking about his own "sacrifices" as a builder and job creator), he still faces trouble down the road.
And, yes, he somehow unstuck himself from past piles of political muck - Mexicans are rapists, John McCain's no war hero, Megyn Kelly was menstruating, Muslims should be banned, that "Mexican" judge should recuse himself - and still was tied or not far behind Clinton nationally and in critical states.
But now, with conventions over, with still-untrustworthy Hillary still dissembling (OK, lying) about her emails, some basic campaign elements soon will be in play that can help her cause and hurt his.
Surrogates, for example.
Big campaigns rely on big names willing to speak in public, appear in ads, and so on.
Clinton, by virtue of establishment credentials, has an A-list of current and past leaders, inspirational orators, and others to urge turnout on her behalf.
This includes three presidents (Obama, Clinton, Carter), and the way things are going, I wouldn't be stunned if two more (Bush and Bush) jump in at some point.
Then there are the likes of Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, and billionaires Michael Bloomberg, Warren Buffett, and Mark Cuban.
Trump has his children and Chris Christie. And maybe Rudy Giuliani. Though last time I checked, Christie was sporting a 26 percent approval rating in Jersey and Giuliani, in an April poll, had 34 percent approval in New York City.
Lara Brown, director of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, says surrogates "amplify and echo" candidates' messages and, if credible, help campaigns.
She also says that because both those atop the tickets are viewed unfavorably, the most effective surrogates this year could by VP picks Mike Pence and Tim Kaine.
She could be right. Nobody knows these two. Perhaps people will listen.
Bruce Newman, a marketing prof at DePaul University and author of The Marketing of the President, says strong surrogates can be "worth a couple percentage points" in a close race.
And, he says, while Trump marketed himself well at his convention, combining political success with business success and mixing in family, he lags in other basics.
A critical edge, says Newman, should go to Clinton because of access to the micro-targeting and big-data war chest developed during Obama's runs.
So if you give surrogates and technology to Clinton, toss in demographics (since Trump has, um, issues with minorities and women), and maybe add a dash of debating skills, there's a pretty strong case that she wins.
That means voters would choose, according to the latest CNN poll, a candidate 64 percent of Americans don't view as honest or trustworthy over a candidate the exact same percentage don't view as honest or trustworthy.
That's right: 64 percent say they don't trust her; 64 percent say they don't trust him. And in her case, that's an improvement.
You really can't make this year up.
I know elections can be fluid; things can happen and maybe all the anti-insider, wrong-direction stuff gets ginned up closer to November, trumping the normal basics usually key to winning campaigns.
Remember, words such as normal and usual don't apply to this race. Which is why, even lacking the basics, Trump perhaps, unbelievably, still could win.