Bloomberg’s Will Leitch has published the best account I’ve seen of a Donald Trump event and a Donald Trump crowd, in the context of this weekend’s bizarre pop-up extravaganza in a Mobile football stadium. He grasps that the venue represents the closest thing Alabama offers to an ancient coliseum, or perhaps even a pagan temple (though even a Trump crowd would look puny in the 90,000-plus seat Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa), and the candidate himself is described as having the stage presence associated with a true Alabama god:

Trump doesn’t need a warm-up act, doesn’t even need to warm up. He has always carried himself like someone who is constantly hearing tens of thousands of people chanting his name in his head, so when at an event like this, when it’s actually happening, he’s in his natural element; he took the stage like he was Nick Saban, like he’d lived in Alabama his whole life. “This is beautiful, this is beautiful,” he said, and you never believed anything a politician said more.

Reading about the attendees of this event, you get a clear indication of Trump’s potential staying power as a candidate: something in the medium range. As a protest figure with a few tested crowd-pleasing sound bits and a half-ironic appeal, his constantly predicted “peak” or “decline” or even “implosion” is not happening anytime very soon, barring some sort of political Sin Against the Holy Ghost. And were he to persist as that ultimate kind of protest candidate, an independent general election candidate, you could see him retaining an indestructible core following all the way to November of 2016.

But at some point he’s probably not going to be running first in GOP polls unless he simultaneously refreshes his act while no one in the vast field of rivals begins to cut into his constituency. The $64,000 question is whether his sell-by date precedes the early state contests next January and February.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.