PALM BEACH, Fla.—The ballroom at Mar-a-Lago is white and gold—it is called, in fact, the White and Gold Ballroom. Gilded columns topped with gilded arches line the sides of the room; the ceiling is embossed with a gilded pattern of seashells and vines. This is Donald Trump's home away from home, the estate-turned-private-club where he chose to celebrate the biggest night so far of his improbable presidential campaign.
The room was too small for the dozens of reporters who crammed into it on Tuesday night, jostling behind cameras and squeezing into stiff-backed gold-painted chairs. And that was before a contingent of flamboyantly dressed, aggressively tanned older people filed in—members of the club, there to support their friend Trump.
The governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, who once hoped to be president himself, introduced Trump. “Tonight, Donald Trump is the clear winner on Super Tuesday,” he said. “But the win is for our country.” Trump had, at that point, already won Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Virginia; he would go on to win Arkansas, while Ted Cruz won Oklahoma, Texas, and Alaska. It was time, Christie said, for the Republican Party to come together.
Outside the room, that was not, to put it mildly, what was happening. The GOP had spent the past week in a paroxysm of abject terror. A sitting senator and many others declared they would not vote for Trump if he was the nominee; hundreds signaled their agreement in tweets and emails and articles. After Trump, in a Sunday interview, repeatedly declined to reject the support of David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan, the clamor intensified. The speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader publicly decried such flirtations with “bigotry.”