Why Donald Trump's opponents should be very worried by his 'presidential' Super Tuesday victory speech

Donald Trump is dead. Long live 'Trump 2.0'

Adam Withnall
Wednesday 02 March 2016 12:00
Donald Trump victory speech after Super Tuesday

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.

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.

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