David Axelrod: It’s just getting serious

Updated 5:12 PM EST, Wed March 9, 2016

Story highlights

David Axelrod: As fall approaches, voters are likely to reconsider their summer flings with some of the unconventional candidates

CNN debate may have scrambled the race, helping some, hurting others, he says

Editor’s Note: David Axelrod is CNN’s senior political commentator and director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago. He served as senior adviser to President Obama and chief strategist for the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN) —  

There is a predictable rhythm to presidential campaigns that we live, forget and relearn every four years.

David Axelrod
David Axelrod

For voters, the spring before elections is for playing the field, a time when you date broadly, but not seriously. The summer lends itself to intense romances, impulses that seize you completely, even as you know, deep down, that your companion may be an incorrigible rascal and the romance will never last.

But come the fall, you begin to judge your prospective suitors by a different standard, craving the solidity, character and dependability on which long-term relationships are built.

The Republican campaign of 2016 is beginning to take shape.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was a flirtation of spring, the stolid, eager beaver who briefly intrigued GOP insiders and spiked in polls. They saw Walker as a potential bridge between the party’s raucous, right-wing factions and its traditional corporate base.

But Walker revealed himself to be a great first date – a one trick-pony, belaboring his anti-labor record and promiscuously shifting positions on myriad issues to court Iowa’s rich trough of social conservatives. A lethargic first debate performance hastened the breakup.

CNN’s Republican debate: Winners and losers

Summer of Trump

The spring fling gave way to the Summer of Trump.

Before I comment, let me acknowledge that I have been the beneficiary of Donald Trump’s generosity. A few years back, when I was running a campaign to shave off my mustache to raise money for research toward curing epilepsy, he was a major donor, for which I will always be grateful.

The Donald lists as one of his childhood heroes, not a titan of business or politics, but Flo Ziegfeld, the Broadway impresario, whose Ziegfeld Follies once graced the Great White Way.

Barging into the race with a rambling, bellicose diatribe in the gilded lobby of his eponymous New York tower, the carrot-topped builder-cum-reality TV star turned the Republican campaign into his own follies.

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