Maybe it was because the setting was so preposterous that Donald Trump, welcoming reporters and selected friends and family to celebrate his numerous Super Tuesday victories, looked almost to scale with the rest of humanity last night. Or was it a new act he was trying? Let’s be presidential.
This was the Gold and White Ballroom of the not very egalitarian Mar-A-Lago Club he owns on the sea shore in Palm Beach, Florida. The joining fee is a hundred grand. Some in the press muttered Versailles, but honestly it felt more like being locked in the theatre of a Mississippi paddle steamer in a bygone era, the stage, with a backdrop of American flags lit in soft pink and lavender, set up for can-can. Or maybe Dame Edna.
Hardly. It was Chris Christie, the Governor of New Jersey who last week endorsed Mr Trump giving fresh conniptions to the Republican Party establishment, who opened the show. He was oddly low key, as if he was having regrets. “This the beginning of Donald Trump bringing the Republican Party together for a great victory in November,” he insisted, before stepping two steps back to allow the big man on.
Mr Trump actually seemed a wee bit flat himself. Who can blame him really? He had filled the front rows with friends who together may have sustained plastic surgery profits across America, and his son Eric, who stood close by also, abreast of Mr Christie. Trump Jr curiously managed to nod without cease for the full forty minutes his father was then to speak, which must have been tiring too.
For a reporter anyway, Trump Sr has this annoying habit of starting one thought and then never quite finishing it. “If you had told me last June 16th when I came down that escalator,” he began, recalling how he declared his candidacy in Trump Tower, but then trailing, “we would….It takes a lot of courage to run for president, I have never done this before, it’s something I have never done.”
But he sort of picks up theme later, contemplating the Super Tuesday results. “You look what’s happened,” ticking off the states he knew at that moment had already fallen into his column – Virginia, Tennessee, George, Alabama, Massachusetts, a grand spread, however you look at it. “These are amazing states, amazing states…this has been amazing for me, we have done something almost nobody thought could be done.” And no one would argue with that, not last night especially.
If he was little late showing up, he said, it was because he had been glued to the news cable channels “so I knew exactly where we stood.” Oh, and yes, he had watched all three, Fox, CNN and MSNBC, all of which had teams in the room. “OK, see I am, being diplomatic!” he said.
So, a less profane, less offensive Trump does lurk in there somewhere? That was sort of asked directly by one television reporter from Australia, who wondered for example about his plans to block Muslims at the border. “I am going to be very good for the world, I am going to get along with the world,” the candidate insisted. “You are going to love me.” He ventured later that he had a “bigger heart than anybody’s”, because he wanted to set up a “safe zone” for refugees in Syria.
Mr Trump congratulated Senator Ted Cruz, who had prevented what otherwise might have been a clean sweep of the Super Tuesday states, but couldn’t resist swiping Senator Marco Rubio, who had fared less well. Mr Rubio, who must defend his own state of Florida in two weeks, had taken a blow torch to Mr Trump in the past week. “He has been very, very nasty. He hasn’t won anything and he isn’t going to win very much,” he declared. Mr Rubio did, later in the night, claim Minnesota, however.
But the greater message that Mr Trump was attempting was that his success at the polls should be seen not as him pulling apart the Republican Party, as many of its elders see happening, but setting it on a new course, one they dislike, and growing it. “Look we have expanded the Republican Party” in these primaries so far, he argued, noting that turnout has been far higher than for the Democrats. “Extra people are coming in, they have from the Democratic Party…and we got independents”.
He can be mean, we know, but Mr Trump at his better moments is almost avuncular. That is how he signed off, with a simple, “I feel awfully good.” He stepped out towards the club’s pool, Roman pillars in the shadows, some of his friends following while others stayed behind to take pictures of one another at the podium he had just left, the “Make America Great Again” notice still attached to its front.
That his seal, for now. He has his plane already. He has the accumulating delegates taking him rapidly towards the nomination. And he his White House by the sea. So maybe he was feeling presidential.
For him that’s not a new feeling, probably.
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- US election 2016
- Donald Trump
- Super Tuesday
- Ted Cruz
- Marco Rubio
- Hillary Clinton