Palm Beach News

Donald Trump Took a Super Tuesday Victory Lap in Palm Beach Last Night

The bathroom sinks at Mar-A-Lago, the $14,000-a-year private club Donald Trump owns in Palm Beach, are plated with gold. Last night, after washing his hands, a TV news cameraman took out his phone and snapped a photo of the faucet. Another reporter walked up next to him.

“Think there’s a chance there’s real gold in there?” the second man asked.

“Who knows?” the cameraman replied. “It’s Trump.”

The biggest night of Donald Trump’s political career came Tuesday night, and it came at Mar-A-Lago. Yesterday was Super Tuesday, during which 11 states held primaries. Trump, who frequently sounds like the nation’s drunk, racist uncle, took seven states, cementing his status as the GOP front-runner. As of Wednesday morning, Trump had won 285 delegates, to Ted Cruz’s 161. The jig is up.

Trump held his victory speech at Mar-A-Lago, for media only, rather than at the massive, World Wrestling Entertainment-style rallies he’s held across the country in the last few months. The event was held in a miniscule auxiliary chamber some 500 feet away from the resort’s main ballroom. Gold fleur-de-lis patterns swam along the walls and around mirrors. Three chandeliers the size of beanbag chairs hung from the ceiling. If it weren’t for the 10 American flags standing guard behind Trump’s podium, the room would have been the perfect hosting pad for a midsize Sweet Sixteen.

The Trump campaign, famously hostile toward the press, seemed delighted to cram as many reporters into a single room as possible. Power outlets were nonexistent. Laptops died midspeech. The TV camera scrum, always something of a maelstrom, was situated directly in front of the only open exit door. Reporters next to me couldn't seem to get the right Wi-Fi password from the staff. Hushed whispers rumbled across the room as the Associated Press called more and more states for Trump, first Georgia, and then Vermont and Virginia, and so on down the line.

Mar-A-Lago is a lot like Trump, in that both are manufactured imitations of humanity forever crammed into places they don’t belong. The villa originally belonged to Marjorie Merriweather Post, heiress to the Post cereal fortune. Some of the walls really are lined with gold.

Trump bought the property in 1985 for a reported $10 to $15 million. The villa is basically a superdeluxe country club, minus the golf, and costs $100,000 to join, plus that annual fee. Yesterday, after Good Morning America’s George Stephanopoulous asked Trump why he seemed to waffle when disavowing David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, Trump said, “No one has done more for equality than me,” and claimed Mar-A-Lago as his proof. The club, he said, is open to people of all races and genders, provided they give him hundreds of thousands of dollars. Last week, the New York Times reported that Trump, who claims he’ll bring jobs back to middle-class American workers, skipped over 300 American workers who’d applied to work at the club, and hired mostly foreign “guest workers” instead.
At about 9:15, 50 or so Trump supporters filed into the front of the room, taking up the first few rows of seats, and lining the hallways. A blond woman with razor-sharp cheekbones wore the night’s only red trucker hat. This being Palm Beach, the women had Dolly Parton haircuts, and  both genders seemed to have received some level of facial reconstruction surgery.  On Twitter, Palm Beach Post reporter Michele Dargan recognized one woman as Lois Pope, widow of National Enquirer founder Generoso Pope.

A full 40 minutes after the event was scheduled to begin, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who’d freshly deserted the Republican establishment for Trump last week, took the podium, to mild applause from Trump’s welcoming party.

“Tonight,” he says, “Donald Trump is the clear winner of Super Tuesday.” Trump’s cabal of fans erupted into applause. He then called The Donald to the stage, shook Trump’s hand, and stood behind him awkwardly for the rest of the night, like a hostage.

In person, Trump looks exactly as he does on television. The camera does not add or subtract much of anything. What is lost on the TV viewer, however, is Trump’s body language, which is terrifyingly confident. It’s easy to see why the populace has fallen for him — Trump does not flinch, does not shy away, physically, from tough questions, does not pause to think over his words, does not seem to be thinking much about anything, at all. This night, riding a tidal wave of support, he was rolling.
“Chris, thank you very much, I appreciate it,” he said. “This has been an amazing evening. Already, we’ve won five major states, and it looks like we could win seven, eight, nine.” He went right after Hillary Clinton, who had a huge Super Tuesday herself, winning seven states. At her own speech in Miami that night, Clinton debuted a transparently anti-Trump message: She wants to make America “whole” again.

“Making America great again is much better,” Trump says. He then poked fun at his flagging competitors on the Republican side: Marco Rubio, a man of zero ideas, and Ted Cruz, whose only plan is to tear down as much as he can in four years before we all shoot into the sun. Both lost handily last night. Trump then rattled off his basic list of campaign proposals: Deport undocumented immigrants, bring jobs and factories back to the U.S., and build a large wall across the country’s border with Mexico. He also suggested that his wall, which will be “very tall,” will keep heroin out of New Hampshire. 

The big news from Super Tuesday, at least according to Trump, appeared to be that the party establishment had turned to his side. “I am a unifier,” he claimed. He says he’s “expanded” the Republican party. “I think we’re going to be more inclusive, and more unified.” He also praised the work Planned Parenthood has done for women’s health, but warned that he’ll force them to stop performing abortions.

He then opened the floor for questions.

“Mr. Trump, you call yourself a negotiator, a dealmaker,” one reporter asked. “Is this campaign the start of a negotiation for you, taking extreme positions in order to move towards the middle?”

“No, it’s not,” he said. After a rambling answer, he suggested that, given 30 minutes, he could make anyone sitting in the Oval Office agree with him.

“If the Democrats stonewall you on immigration, is that negotiable?” the reporter asked in a follow-up.

Trump’s plan is, famously, to have Mexico pay for the wall he’d like to build. He claims this is possible because Mexico owes the U.S., by his own estimation, roughly $50 billion, and his wall will only cost one-fifth of that. He stresses this is possible, despite the fact that former Mexican President Vicente Fox last week said, unequivocally, that he is “not going to pay for that fucking wall.”

“If I ever used that word,” Trump said, “you folks would never, ever let me get away with it. I won’t even talk about the word he used. This is the ultimate word.”

He also seemed confused why “young, strong” refugees would want to leave Syria, rather than stay and “fight for their country.”

“We have no idea where they’re coming from,” he said, ignoring the fact that refugees are vetted through a host of government programs before being allowed into the country. “But I have a bigger heart than anybody. We’re gonna build a safe zone. It’s gonna be in Syria. and I’m gonna get the Gulf States, who have more money than anybody — we’re gonna loosen up their wallets a little bit. We’re gonna get the Gulf States to pay for it.”

Jared Rizzi, a bearded radio reporter, pressed Trump on his ability to work with Congress.

“Who are you, by the way?” Trump asked.

“I’m from SiriusXM radio,” Rizzi replied.

“Okay, very good,” Trump said flatly. “Good job.”

Soon after, Trump ended his speech, and the zombie-throng converged on him. A few men, drunk on machismo, took photographs behind Trump’s podium. And the King himself retired to his chambers.
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Jerry Iannelli is a staff writer for Miami New Times. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. He moved to South Florida in 2015.
Contact: Jerry Iannelli