JUPITER, Fla. — Donald Trump took the podium in the ballroom at Trump National Golf Club Tuesday night after adding a solid win in the industrial Midwest to earlier victories in the Northeast, the South, and the West. And Trump has not only won from Michigan to Mississippi and from Vermont to Nevada -- he has done it with record numbers of voters coming out for Republican primaries and caucuses.
"The turnout has been just massive, every week," Trump said. "I actually think it's the biggest story in politics today, and I hope the Republicans will embrace it."
That's not going to happen, at least not now, a week away from winner-take-all GOP primaries here in Florida and in Ohio. Trump's rivals, backed by increasingly alarmed Republican donors, are throwing millions of dollars in negative ads against him in a last-ditch effort to keep him from amassing enough delegates to win the party's nomination outright — and kill their hopes for a contested convention.
There was something different about Trump at Trump National. Yes, he specifically declined an invitation from the press to declare himself the presumptive Republican nominee. But his message to the party was clearer than he has yet made it in the campaign: I'm going to win, and you should get on board.
Specifically, Fox News' Carl Cameron asked Trump what his post-Michigan victory message is to the Republican officeholders and elites who are trying to sink his candidacy. "I say let's come together, folks," Trump answered. "We're going to win.
"Believe it or not, I am a unifier," Trump continued. "I think it's time to unify. We have something special going in the Republican Party. And unfortunately, the people in the party, they call them the elites … but those are the people that don't respect it yet. We have millions and millions of people coming up and voting."
Coincidentally, just a few hours before Trump spoke, the Republican National Committee was touting the party's remarkably good turnout numbers. "There are a lot of stories on GOP infighting but nobody is mentioning that our turnout across the board is up nearly 70 percent from 2012 while Democrats are down," one official wrote me in an email Tuesday morning. "And we're up 130 percent in states where we invested and have had staff on the ground for 2-4 years (NV, IA, VA, NH)."
Of course an RNC aide would attribute the increase to the central party's efforts, as opposed to, say, the presence of Trump. But the fact is, the party has done a lot, and Republicans are hungrier than Democrats after eight years out of power. Both contributed to higher turnout. And then there is Trump; there's no doubt Trump is justified in taking credit for much of the new turnout.
Trump's win in Mississippi was easy to predict; he had destroyed the competition in next-door Alabama just a week ago. And in retrospect, Michigan seemed obvious, too. I attended Trump's rally Friday at Macomb Community College, in legendary Macomb County, Mich., home of the original Reagan Democrats. Trump denounced Ford's plans to build a plant in Mexico, just as he has denounced Ford in other speeches around the country, but the message really, really connected in Michigan, for obvious reasons. More than half of Michigan Republican voters told exit pollsters that foreign trade deals take away American jobs. Trump won 48 percent of the vote in Macomb County to John Kasich's second-place 22 percent.
Trump's Michigan win also showed how little influence Mitt Romney has among Republicans in his home state. Last Thursday, Romney delivered a nationally-televised speech trashing Trump, focusing particularly on his record as a businessman. Romney followed up with interviews and Michigan robocalls for rival GOP candidates.
At the Macomb Community College rally, Trump voters, one after the other, told me they thought Romney should have stayed out of it. They cheered when Trump criticized Romney from the stage. Four days later, in his victory speech, Trump picked up where he left off.
"Mitt was very vicious," Trump said. "If he had used the same energy against Obama, he would have won."
In one sense, the entire staging of the Trump National election-night event was a reaction to Romney. Romney had ridiculed a number of Trump's smaller, failed, ventures — Trump Magazine and Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks and more. "A business genius he is not," said Romney.
On Tuesday, Trump, never afraid to show just how thin his skin can be, set up tables on either side of the podium, and on those tables he stacked bottles of Trump Wine — Trump Rose and Blanc de Blanc sparkling, plus Chardonnay, all from Trump Winery in Charlottesville, Va. — and shrink-wrapped cases of Trump Water. He added a copy of Trump Magazine and then, as he walked in to take the microphone, he had workers bring in big trays of raw steaks. Trump spent an amazing amount of time defending and justifying these minor ventures against Romney's attack, which seemed a bit out of balance given the victories Trump had just won.
But the story of the night was not wine or water. It was those two new victories in diverse parts of the nation. Trump has now won New Hampshire and South Carolina and Nevada and Alabama and Arkansas and Georgia and Massachusetts and Tennessee and Vermont and Virginia and Kentucky and Louisiana and Mississippi and Michigan. Even bigger tests lie just a week ahead. But at this stage Trump is absolutely dominating the Republican race.