I'm a unifier, says Trump after Super triumph
Published 03/03/2016 | 02:30
Donald Trump claimed he could be a "unifying" candidate following a huge win in the 'Super Tuesday' contests for the Republican Party's presidential nomination.
Many senior figures in the deeply divided party looked on in despair and horror as the billionaire won seven of 11 states, establishing a runaway lead and threatening to make victory inevitable.
Ted Cruz, the US Senator from Texas, emerged as Mr Trump's closest rival by winning three states including his home state. Marco Rubio, the candidate favoured by the Republican establishment, won only Minnesota but vowed to fight on.
In the run-up to voting, Mr Trump's campaign was overshadowed by controversy after he prevaricated and failed to immediately denounce the Ku Klux Klan during a live CNN interview.
He was publicly lambasted by America's two top elected Republicans - House Speaker Paul Ryan and senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Mr Ryan said: "This party does not prey on people's prejudices."
But there was little effect on Mr Trump's popularity as record numbers of voters turned out, propelling him to wins in Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Vermont. In some of those states, he won by large margins.
Republican Party officials and wealthy donors were left reeling by the results and admitted they had completely misjudged the mood of voters.
Brad Marston, a Republican strategist, said: "People are tired of their leaders lying to them.
"People are being drawn out of the woodwork to vote for Trump." In Georgia, Alabama and Virginia, exit polls suggested around 60pc of Republican voters felt "betrayed" by their own party leaders.
Across all 11 states, half the voters said they wanted an "outsider" rather than a politician as president.
In six of the states, large majorities supported Mr Trump's controversial proposal to temporarily ban all foreign Muslims from entering America.
Mr Trump's campaign has been characterised by divisive rhetoric about the Muslim ban, as well as a proposal to build a wall between the US and Mexico and to deport 11 million illegal immigrants.
But after Super Tuesday, when a quarter of Americans had their chance to vote, Mr Trump's tone changed and he delivered a measured victory speech, abandoning the usual tub-thumbing vitriol.
In a gold and white ballroom at Mar-a-Lago, the exclusive ocean-front resort he owns in Palm Beach, Florida, the former reality television show host made a concerted effort to appear presidential, standing at a lectern in front of 10 US flags beneath a chandelier.
Mr Trump portrayed himself as someone who was expanding the Republican Party by drawing in disaffected blue-collar Democrats, and a leader whom the conservative movement could coalesce around.
He said: "I'm a unifier, I know people find that a little hard to believe, but I am a unifier.
"I would love to see the Republican Party and everybody get together and unify. When we unify, there's nobody that's going to beat us."
Mr Trump added: "We're a democracy. If I'm winning all these states, it's awfully hard to say I'm not the person we want.
"I'm going to get along very well with the world, and you're going to be very proud of me as president.
"I'm becoming diplomatic. We're going to be more inclusive. Once this is over I'm going after only one person, and that's Hillary Clinton."
Some senior Republican figures praised Mr Trump's call for unity.
Newt Gingrich, the former house speaker, said: "Trump's shift toward inclusiveness, team effort and unity was vitally important."
Meanwhile, Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who briefly led the Republican candidacy race before his campaign began an extended public implosion, told his supporters in a statement yesterday that he does not see a "path forward" and would not be attending tonight's debate in Detroit.
Carson, however, did not formally suspend his campaign.
"I do not see a political path forward in light of Super Tuesday primary results," the statement said.