The meringue excesses of the DJT Ballroom at Mar-A-Lago – the 17 giant chandeliers reflected in the polished marble floor – promised a dainty Disney princess, perhaps, or a tiny-toed ballerina.
Or was Marie Antoinette about to step from behind the stage’s lusciously-lit drapery? She did have big hair.
Those initials surely left little room for confusion; nor did the disposable towelettes in the gents beneath the stairs, imprinted with a gold coat of arms bearing the now very familiar letters: T-R-U-M-P.
This is the lair of Donald Trump, an extravagance sat on the spit of land that is Palm Beach. There are no modest homes here, but his mansion, which he has turned into an exclusive club, is the grandest of them all.
Built in 1927 by a cornflakes heiress, Marjorie Merriweather Post, it indeed stretches from the sea to the lagoon, hence its name. It has secrets too, like a tunnel leading directly to the beach.
And so it was he who strode to the podium to bask in the spoils of another big Tuesday of primary voting. But this was no normal election night rally.
Donald Trump's most controversial quotes
Donald Trump's most controversial quotes
1/14 On Isis:
"Some of the candidates, they went in and didn’t know the air conditioner didn’t work and sweated like dogs, and they didn’t know the room was too big because they didn’t have anybody there. How are they going to beat ISIS?"
2/14 On immigration:
"I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me —and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words."
3/14 On Free Trade:
"Free trade is terrible. Free trade can be wonderful if you have smart people. But we have stupid people."
PAUL J. RICHARDS | AFP | Getty Images
4/14 On Mexicans:
"When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists."
5/14 On China:
"I just sold an apartment for $15 million to somebody from China. Am I supposed to dislike them?... I love China. The biggest bank in the world is from China. You know where their United States headquarters is located? In this building, in Trump Tower."
6/14 On work:
"If you're interested in 'balancing' work and pleasure, stop trying to balance them. Instead make your work more pleasurable."
7/14 On success:
"What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts to each new twist of fate."
8/14 On life:
"Everything in life is luck."
9/14 On ambition:
"You have to think anyway, so why not think big?"
10/14 On his opponents:
"Bush is totally in favour of Common Core. I don't see how he can possibly get the nomination. He's weak on immigration. He's in favour of Common Core. How the hell can you vote for this guy? You just can't do it."
11/14 On Obamacare:
"You have to be hit by a tractor, literally, a tractor, to use it, because the deductibles are so high. It's virtually useless. And remember the $5 billion web site?... I have so many web sites, I have them all over the place. I hire people, they do a web site. It costs me $3."
12/14 On Barack Obama:
"Obama is going to be out playing golf. He might be on one of my courses. I would invite him. I have the best courses in the world. I have one right next to the White House."
13/14 On himself:
"Love him or hate him, Trump is a man who is certain about what he wants and sets out to get it, no holds barred. Women find his power almost as much of a turn-on as his money."
14/14 On America:
"The American Dream is dead. But if I get elected president I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before and we will make America great again."
We, the reporters who been graced with invitations, were a small tennis court away from the candidate. Between us and him were two hundred-odd of his Palm Beach pals, most of them paying members of the club, arrayed on rows of gilded banquet chairs.
It was, in other words, the most moneyed election night party the world has ever seen. And the mood was happy indeed, with all the victories their champion had clocked up. Perhaps only their arrival had tried their patience, Bentley’s jostling with reporters’ rentals in the club driveway.
That Mar-A-Lago is so lavish sits just fine with Darleen Soave. With her husband George – him splendid in cream summer linen, her sporting a gigantic diamond pendant on her bronzed chest – she had learned before Mr Trump spoke that they had been accepted as members.
“I love him and I want to be here with him,” she said with a gush. “I just got my package and everything from the manager.”
Yes, he spends a lot of money keeping Mar-A-Lago fabulous, she says, casting appreciative eyes at the Versailles coffered ceilings, “but he gives to charities, and to veterans” too.
Most of them not spring chickens, some in the audience still couldn’t sit as Mr Trump began to speak. He is their energiser.
“Sit down everyone please, I mean this is Mar-A-Lago, we have seats!” Mr Trump declared. He slathered his guests with love, even if his eye was trained really on the cameras at the back.
It was, of course, a monologue mostly of self-congratulation. He was winning, he opined, even with the hurricane of attacks unleashed by his enemies.
“Nobody has ever, ever in the history of politics, received the kind of negative advertising that I have. Mostly false, vicious, horrible.” The crowd, suddenly less genteel, was clapping and whooping, so he pressed on: “Lies, deceit, disgusting reporters.” (It’s a wonder we were allowed in, except of course that it isn’t.)
The event had been advertised by the Trump campaign as a press conference. Yet he entertained no questions, sweeping off stage right when he was done. He had achieved what he needed, reminding America of his newly found political prowess.
The night itself could have been a little better for the developer and former reality TV host. In spite of campaigning in the state heavily, Mr Trump failed to steal Ohio from its sitting Governor, John Kasich, who now will plod on, even though that is the only state he has taken so far. He did sweep Florida, and Mr Rubio into the political wilderness, and also took North Carolina and Illinois.
In Missouri, he was in a tight race with Senator Ted Cruz, who survives as his closest rival.
For much of the early going of his speech, Mr Trump dwelled on a new poll in The Economist showing him with 53 per cent support among Republicans, countering the narrative of doubters that he can’t break that magical 50 per cent barrier that would put him on a safe path to the nomination.
It is a daft argument, he said, because this hasn’t been a two-person race. (Though it became a three-way contest on Tuesday as Marco Rubio dropped out.)
“I have to explain to these people, they don’t understand basic physics, basic mathematics. We are four people, we are four people, you have to understand. So when you get 53, that’s an amazing achievement.”
Yet while a herd of elephants could fit in the DJT ballroom, only one was necessary on this important night. It looms, but he wouldn’t speak about it. It’s that pesky math again.
Mr Trump’s loss in Ohio makes it much more likely he will fall short of taking the simple majority of delegates he needs to avoid a contested Republican Party convention in July, never mind the poll in The Economist. And while he might survive an all-out brawl on the convention fall in Cleveland, he might not.
And then he’d have to give up his president-in-waiting performance and go back to club owner.Reuse content