Donald Trump stepped up to the podium in Florida at the end of Super Tuesday knowing almost nothing can stop him being named the Republican candidate for the presidency – and gave his most humble and understated performance of the campaign so far.
With all the results now in from the 12 states casting votes on Tuesday, the billionaire businessman has won seven, a comfortable victory which has the added bonus – for him at least – of keeping the opposition to him within the party divided.
Mr Trump addressed his supporters in a victory speech at his luxurious Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, with most attention on social media going to the seemingly pained expression of the man introducing him, New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
For those concerned about the prospect of a Trump presidency, the Republican establishment included, the focus should have been on the former rival’s words: “Tonight is the beginning of Donald Trump bringing the Republican party together.”
Viewers called Mr Trump’s speech “polite”, “cordial” and “humble” – words even his most ardent supporters would not have attributed to a man who has built his campaign on controversy and showmanship.
And even on MSNBC, anchor Brian Williams said Mr Trump looked “presidential” in his new form.
After Mr Christie’s endorsement and introduction, the Apprentice host set the tone for his speech by extending conciliatory words towards rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, both of whom he said had “worked very hard” in recent weeks.
Of Mr Cruz, who took his home state of Texas as well as Oklahoma and Alaska, Mr Trump said: “I want to congratulate Ted on winning Texas, I know how hard he worked and that was an excellent win.”
He reserved harsher words for Mr Rubio, despite being at an event in the senator’s own state, on the grounds he had been “very, very nasty” in a speech about Mr Trump last week.
But even as he had a dig at the big business leaders who would be spending money in Florida to have their “little senator” in the oval office, Mr Trump was more interested in focussing on his own empire’s investments in the state.
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."
Gone were the crowd-pumping chants and slogans of the Apprentice host’s pre-vote rallies, the attacks on fellow candidates and the media.
Instead, Mr Trump said he was “honoured”, and thanked those present for “our” success. He called the past few weeks an “educational” experience, said he was “becoming diplomatic” and described his goal now as being “to unify the party, to get along with everybody”.
In a sign he is growing in confidence, Mr Trump, clearly had his eyes on a match-up with Hillary Clinton, who also took seven states to improve her already-strong chances of winning the Democrat nomination.
He said: “I am a unifier, I know people may find that a little hard to believe but I am a unifier, and when this is all done I am going to go after one person – Hillary Clinton.
“She's been there for so long. If she hasn't straightened it out by now, she's not going to straighten it out in the next four years.”
That’s not to say he didn’t maintain his controversial positions on immigration, reiterating that he would build a wall on the border with Mexico and ban Muslims from entering the country.
But the way he stated these plans was considerably toned down, and supported by lengthier arguments – as extreme as they appear to be – on how they would work in practice.
Amid recent clashes between reporters at Trump events and his supporters or, in the case of a Time photographer, Secret Service detail, the candidate also extended a peace offering to the media present at his speech.
“It’s so great to be in Florida, it’s so great to be a Mar-a-Lago with friends and press and the media and everybody,” he said.
Taking a number of questions from journalists after his speech, he was asked directly if recent he was courting a more “general electorate” – it was even suggested that his prior extreme comments were a form of opening bid for the “negotiations” to come.
Pointing to remarks about supporting Planned Parenthood – if clinics stop offering abortions, at least – Mr Trump conceded he was no longer painting himself as the “perfect conservative”.
Instead he described his new stance as that of the “common-sense conservative”, adding you can “call it what you like”. For those opposed to seeing Mr Trump in the White House come November, you can call it a very worrying development indeed.Reuse content