Trump urges Republicans to unite for victory

2016-03-12 08:03
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a news conference on Super Tuesday. (Andrew Harnik, AP)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a news conference on Super Tuesday. (Andrew Harnik, AP)

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Palm Beach - Donald Trump called on Republicans to amass behind him to propel him into the White House, as he looks to tighten his grip on the party nomination at next week's latest "Super Tuesday."

The brash billionaire, who has never held elected office, issued the rallying call on Friday at his swank Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, where he unveiled his latest campaign weapon: Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who quit the presidential race last week.

Carson, who clashed with Trump earlier in the campaign when he briefly threatened the real-estate mogul's frontrunner status, said the pair had "buried the hatchet" and insisted that Trump's public persona is nothing like the man away from the cameras.

"There are two different Donald Trumps," said Carson, who was mercilessly taunted on the campaign trail by Trump, who notoriously likened his "pathological temper" to that of a child molester.

"There's the one you see on the stage and there's the one who's very cerebral, sits there, you can have a very good conversation with him, and that's the Donald Trump that you're going to start seeing more and more of right now."

Trump, who has rattled US politics and the Republican establishment with his shock emergence as the man to beat, stunned observers as he led his rivals in a show of unflappable civility at a debate on Thursday night in Miami after weeks of below-the-belt attacks.

Gone were the bluster, insults and red-faced ranting that have defined the Trump campaign so far. In their place was dignified debating, all thoughtful nods and waiting one's turn - prompting the New York Times to ask, tongue-in-cheek: "When and why did an alien gain control of Donald Trump's body?"

Trump closed the debate with rivals Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Marco Rubio by calling for the party to unite to emerge victorious in the November general election, and doubled down on the theme on Friday.

"When I said embrace, I was saying the Republican Party should come together and embrace these millions of people going down and voting," the frontrunner told supporters. "The Republican Party should grab this, and we will have a victory like the Republican Party has never had before," he added, to cheers.

Floridians vote on Tuesday - dubbed by US media "Super Tuesday 3" - along with residents of Ohio and Illinois. All three big states are winner-take-all in the Republican delegate race, the first such contests in the 2016 election cycle.

Eager to avoid a schism, the chair of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, insisted on Thursday that the party would support the chosen nominee "100%," although party heavyweights have trained their big guns on Trump to discredit him.

Trump, who has labelled Mexican migrants rapists and drug traffickers and said he would ban Muslims entering the United States, also said it was "time to end the debates" and hinted he may not do the next one.

Knockout blow for Rubio?

However civilized Thursday's debate, Trump's rallies are known for being rambunctious affairs, and that seeped over into violence on Wednesday night in North Carolina when a 78-year-old white man in a cowboy hat punched a black protester in the face.

John McGraw, who later said that next time "we might have to kill him," was charged with assault, battery and disorderly conduct for the sucker-punch.

The incident drew a sharp rebuke from Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and rival Bernie Sanders, but Trump on Friday blamed protesters who frequently attempt to disrupt his rallies for causing trouble and pointed the finger at media for giving disproportionate air time to the disruption.

Good publicity or not, Trump has all the momentum. Carson was the latest former White House hopeful to endorse him, after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Trump has been picking off his opponents one by one in the race and he is aiming to deliver a knockout blow against Rubio on the senator's home turf in Florida, a crown jewel in the nominations race.

Rubio was championed by party grandees as the best mainstream hope of derailing Trump, but he has performed dreadfully in several recent primary contests and Cruz, the ultra-conservative Texas senator, currently holds the title as prime challenger to Trump.

Many in the party see next Tuesday's votes as the last best chance to derail the insurgent candidacy of the billionaire real estate mogul, who has so far won 15 of 24 primary races.

Read more on:    donald trump  |  us  |  us 2016 elections

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