Since then, I - and, no doubt, half a legion of political pundits the world over - have found myself curiously captivated by this most .. cursory of candidates.
What does he stand for? How did he go from headline-based joke to headlining the joke party? *WHY* is he?
Well this piece doesn't purport to contain the answers to any of the above. We're no doubt going to be churning out screeds upon screeds of political analysis for at least the next decade about how all of this came to be - and why he's not just another re-run of the Ross Perot phenomenon.
But what I found, buried within the dusty mounds of internet links and expert opinion which I daily trawl through and then nest in ... were two important truths.
First up, that Trump isn't as stupid as he looks. (Which would, if he were, be a singularly impressive phenomenon in and of itself)
And second, that because of this ... he operates in some ways *outside* the establishment-spectrum of American politics. That's the root of his popularity, in many ways - but it's also a worrying indictment of that establishment in the first place.
Where Trump fits in is as a corrective tendency - a lever which, whether by accident or design, will serve to break open the Establishment consensus on what's "acceptable" politics. And in doing so, try to bring at least part of this sphere crashing back to closer proximity with what a reasonable swathe of the American people *actually* want.
And contrary to what you might think (particularly upon reading his absolutely ghastly and abominable comments on certain ethnic minorities, to say the least) ... that's not always such a bad thing!
He's right. But unfortunately, he's one of the few leading politicians in the race (and yes, the idea of him as a 'leading' politician is simply terrifying) - particularly on the right wing of politics - to recognize this as a fact.
Meanwhile, Establishment favourites Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are dyed-in-the-wool free traders. That's not to say that Trump isn't, but at least he can recognize a disastrous free trade deal when he sees one.
To her credit, Clinton has since come out with some gentle skepticism as to the TPPA's hoped-for benefits - but as has been pointed out elsewhere, this simply seems like yet more evidence of her political dynasty's habitual tactic of focus-grouped faux-populism rather than any genuine disavowal of a dastardly deal.
His logic's pretty compelling: as he quite rightly points out, it's patently unfair to slash back a service which many millions of Americans have been paying into for decades in full expectancy of its benefits, just on an ideological political whim.
And that, I guess in a nutshell, is why Trump matters.
Because when he's standing there, right next to George W. Bush's brother and in a field of warmongering Hawks, pointing out the Iraq War was a bad idea ... that means something. Not as an empty gesture of protest - but as a striking visual reminder that there IS indeed another way. Same deal when he sticks out like a sore thumb in the Republican field about wanting to PROTECT rather than UNDERMINE or ABOLISH key government programs like Medicare.
All of that, together, serves to break apart and undermine the Establishment doctrines you might have heard of under a similar guise such as "TINA". There Is No Alternative. There's ALWAYS an alternative - often espoused by the person crazy enough to see things a little differently (Hello!). And often fiercely pushed back and resisted against by people who have the most to gain from adhering to the dominant thinking about an issue.