At first it seemed Donald Trump was weary, having ignited a populist voter revolution in America, fed the once venerable Republican Party into a mangle and given the entire world a spate of jitters about how it will all end.
But then, notwithstanding the ornate setting of the White and Gold Ballroom at his very own Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach and a festival of stars and stripes behind him illuminated in pink and lavender, it emerged that this was not exhaustion. A carefully selected court was witnessing Mr Trump’s attempt at measured.
To say he was “presidential” might be too generous. But Mr Trump had eschewed the normal election night rally, choosing instead to invite a selected few to his own White House. The stucco of the sprawling Mar-A-Lago, built in 1927 for socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post and now both his Florida home and an exclusive beach club, was where a throttled-back Mr Trump came before us to examine his Super Tuesday spoils. Returns were still coming in, but already captured were Virginia and Massachusetts – two pivotal states – as well as Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama. He had lost Texas to its own senator Ted Cruz, who was later to capture Oklahoma and Alaska. Senator Marco Rubio would soon take just one state, Minnesota.
It was not the sweep some had predicted. Indeed, the delegate maths suggested that it is not yet all over for his rivals or those in the Party desperate to block his path to the nomination. Mr Trump has to keep his locomotives running – in Louisiana, Kentucky and Maine this weekend, Michigan on 8 March and especially when the big states of Ohio and this one, Florida, vote in two weeks’ time.
Still, the boastfulness and bullying was mostly gone. He spoke of his joy coming home to Mar-A-Lago to celebrate “with friends and the press and everybody” and his being “honoured” by what was happening across the country. He thanked his “amazing employees”. He gave a nod to Mr Cruz; he has “a shot”, he said.
This was Mr Trump calibrating himself. The outrage he has stirred has been the steam-boiler of his campaign – the proposals to build a Wall and turn Muslims away at the border and his failure to disavow the KKK – but wrecking-ball destruction may not finally a victory build.
The rebellion against him is real. It’s only a trickle now, but one by one Republican members of Congress are vowing never to support him. “If Donald Trump ends up as the nominee, conservatives will need to find a third option,” Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska said in an open letter to voters.
Mr Trump offered an olive branch. “I am a unifier,” he averred. “I know people will find this hard to believe… once this is all finished, I am going to go after Hillary Clinton.” And he made another argument. Whatever else he is doing to the Republican Party, he is drawing new people in. His victories have come on the crest of record Republican voter turn-outs. “I think we’ll be more inclusive and more unified. I think we will be a much bigger party. I think we’re going to win in November.”Reuse content