US election 2016: Donald Trump adopts 'nicer, softer' tone in attempt to heal Republican rifts

Non-politician Trump is becoming politician Trump - wooing the same people he regularly belittles and lampoons at his rallies

After Donald Trump consolidated his lead in the race for the Republican Party nomination with solid wins in Michigan and Mississippi, he began the tricky task of reaching out to party leaders in Washington yesterday, cajoling them to swallow their hostility and unite behind him.

The billionaire won three out of Tuesday’s four contests – also scoring an easy victory in Hawaii – and appears set to do handsomely next week in vital winner-take-all elections in Florida and Ohio. He fell short only in Idaho, where Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, his closest rival, won.

At a rally in Miami, Senator Cruz was joined by Carly Fiorina announcing her decision to endorse him. Ms Fiorina, who dropped out of the nomination race early, could give a boost to Mr Cruz in Florida, in part because support from women is a clear weak spot for Mr Trump. 

In greater need of help is Senator Marco Rubio, who lagged badly everywhere on Tuesday. He simply has to win his own state of Florida next week or face almost certain oblivion. Mr Trump leads him by double digits in most Florida polls while Mr Cruz is also making an aggressive move in the state.

“If the Republican Party unites behind us, nobody can beat us,” Mr Trump told MSNBC, clearly liking his chances of sewing up the nomination soon. He confirmed he had held what he called a “very conciliatory” conversation by telephone with Paul Ryan, the new speaker of the House on Capitol Hill.  

“We get along well. I like him a lot. I respect him a lot. I think he respects me,” Mr Trump added. “I think he really does respect what I’ve done. He said it. It’s amazing. He said it’s amazing.” Yet only one week ago, Mr Trump declared that if Mr Ryan could not get along with him he would “pay a price”.

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Thus non-politician Trump is becoming politician Trump, wooing the same people he regularly belittles and lampoons at his rallies. He believes he has a case to make: that his candidacy has energised the party base, with turnout breaking records – it was up 50 per cent in Michigan compared to four years ago – and the party rather than fighting the wave, should ride it with him.

Mr Trump also showed sensitivity for the first time to the concern of many on Capitol Hill that the Party might struggle to retain control of the US Senate and perhaps even the House of Representatives if he is at the top of the Party ticket. “It’s very, very important as a Republican that our senators and congressmen get re-elected,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday. 

Addressing reporters – and inviting a few friends to join them – is becoming Mr Trump’s favoured format on big voting nights, preferably at one of his own properties.  

This week it was at a Trump resort in Jupiter, Florida. It at times degenerated into an ad hoc infomercial for his assorted product lines – from steaks to wine, water, a magazine and golfing properties – all because last week Mitt Romney suggested that half of what he claimed to own no longer existed.

Yesterday’s less abrasive Mr Trump said he expected another debate set for tonight in Miami to be “nicer, softer, lighter” than their previous run-ins under the TV lights – it could hardly be harsher or more insult-laden – and also admitted to the limits of his appeal among women. “I can see women not necessarily liking the tone [of his campaign], but I had to be very harsh to win,” he offered. 

But more urgent was his appeal for party unity – and by implication an end to the assaults against him of recent days, of which Mr Romney has been only the most visible participant. “We have something going on that is the political story all over the world,” he said. “Millions of people are coming out and voting in the primary. We have something that if we could embrace it, we are going to have a massive victory in November... If this party came together, no one could beat it.”

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