On Super Tuesday, while Americans in sixteen states went to the polls, Donald Trump’s campaign prepared Mar-a-Lago for a victory party. Volunteers in head-to-toe red sequins were setting up the ballroom, where chandeliers hang from a gold-plated ceiling. Guests entered and walked Mar-a-Lago’s red carpet in their finery. “This is an ass-kicking party,” Al Baldasaro, who was an adviser to Trump’s national veterans’ coalition, told me. “What’s motivated us is the judicial system and what’s happened to Trump—it could happen to you, to me, to anyone.”

Valets installed a velvet rope at the entrance to the ballroom; waiters in suits passed pigs in a blanket and coconut shrimp. A rapper called Forgiato Blow, wearing a “MAYOR OF MAGAVILLE” cap, Louis Vuitton sunglasses, and a thick gold chain with a medallion of Trump’s head, was milling around the ballroom. “There’s no culture surrounding Biden. Trump is the Miami Heat, he’s the Buccaneers, he’s the main event. He’s a brand. We are opportunists,” he said. A variant of Trump’s usual rally playlist was on as background music. April Culbreath, a retired sheriff in a red dress, told me, “Honestly, I think it’s Biblical. We’re living out the Bible right now—I think he was chosen. He’s the only one that has the strength to do it. We’re at the end of time. We’ve got to get this right. I wish everybody could be here tonight and feel this—it’s a magical, majestic place, yes, but also just a place to get grounded again.”

Two years ago, F.B.I. agents raided Mar-a-Lago searching for classified documents, some of which were allegedly kept in a ballroom and a bathroom. Trump said, at the time, that his residence was “under siege.” Now it was as though all was restored: busloads of supporters joined the crowd with Moms for Liberty, Bikers for Trump, local Florida politicians, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and other usuals. The Supreme Court had ruled that the former President should stay on the ballot in Colorado, and, later in the week, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was coming to Mar-a-Lago for a meeting. At the barricade between the party and the press area, Kenny Nail, a Florida county G.O.P. chairman, told me, “Lincoln was the first and the last President to actually be taken off the ballot, because he wanted to get rid of slavery.” He went on, “We have the same thing—we have a quiet civil war, but he will overcome and be the forty-seventh President. Tonight is not just about us in America—it’s for free people around the world.”

When Mar-a-Lago was completed, in 1927, it was among the most expensive nonroyal residences ever constructed. Marjorie Merriweather Post, the cereal heiress who had Mar-a-Lago built for her, imagined that it might be used as a winter White House after her death, but the estate was too expensive and too difficult to keep secure. Trump was able to buy it, in 1985, after threatening to build on land between Mar-a-Lago and the ocean, an act that would have ruined the property’s beach view.

“It’s America’s castle,” Rick Lacey, the chairman of the Brevard County Republicans, told me, as we stood around waiting for Trump to give his speech. “Europe has lots of ornate castles, beautiful castles—this is like our touch of a castle, kind of representative of an exciting time where people are coming together, a little bit like the excitement when John F. Kennedy won.” He went on, “This is the crowning moment for the Republican Party. It’s going to be up there with the Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon landslides.”

By the time the sun went down, the room had filled, and the party was spilling out onto the colonnade, where people mingled underneath palm trees in the heavy air. Trump’s big rallies were one thing, but now the campaign was inviting everyone over for the next term’s housewarming. The partygoers cheered as each state was called for Trump, their applause almost absent-minded because victory was so certain. (The former President won every contest except Vermont, then Nikki Haley dropped out.) Adam Thompson, a board member of the Young Jewish Conservatives of South Florida, gestured around the ballroom. “It’s a big tent, you know—big tent, the old G.O.P. saying. This is the new big tent.” Greg, a banker wearing a pin-striped red-and-blue suit, who has been a member of Mar-a-Lago for thirteen years, pulled out his phone to show me how Donald Trump’s cryptocurrency had risen over the months.“MAGA coin is going to the moon. . . . It’ll be fifteen dollars by the end of the night.”

Some campaign officials came in and out of the press pen to glad-hand and say hello; Boris Epshteyn, one of the Trump lawyers who were involved in the effort to prevent the certification of the 2020 election, walked over to take selfies. Everyone kept asking each other if they’d lost weight. Madison Cawthorn, the former North Carolina congressman, entered the ballroom; Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba walked up onto the risers to do TV interviews. “Your dress is really pretty,” one reporter told Marjorie Taylor Greene, who wore a black sheath. “Trump doesn’t get any credit from the fourth estate,” a veteran insisted when we talked. “We’re at a Klan rally,” he joked.

“It’s a just comeback,” John Loudon, a local B. and B. owner who was drinking Diet Coke, his pink shirt unbuttoned, told me. “It’s better to be healthy after you’re sick. You appreciate it more.” He high-fived a person walking by. “My wife always loved Trump, but my turning point was a lawyer friend in L.A. who was in deals with him. He said, ‘You find out two hours, maybe two years later, how he got ya—but he always wins.’ ”

While the crowds waited for their host’s triumphant arrival, he was upstairs watching television. Just after the polls closed in California, Eric and Lara Trump breezed into the ballroom, trailed by a handful of senior advisers. “Eric!” the guests screamed. At the last Donald Trump rally that I had watched, he said, “Even though the country’s going to hell, we have to have a little bit of fun.” In Mar-a-Lago, when Trump came out for his victory speech, right on time at 10:15 P.M., the remarks were darker and more anticlimactic than exuberant. He was subdued and sombre, launching into a short boilerplate rant—COVID, China, border, inflation, a few lines about how Biden can’t get his feet out of the sand at the beach—before talking about the “tragedy” of the 2020 election. He didn’t really mention the victories. There were a few chants of “Four more years!” and people clapped for a line about tax cuts, but the room felt as if someone needed to clink a glass to get the focus back before the next wedding toast. Trump’s voice, more raspy and tired than usual, echoed, and the air had become humid. People started leaving to board their party buses or get to the valet stand while Trump was still speaking. “We’re going to win this election because we have no choice,” he said. As he left the ballroom, his smile was forced, almost a wince. “I’m not saying anything,” Chris LaCivita, his campaign co-manager, said afterward. “I’m tired. I’ve been up since 2:45 A.M.” Trump made a swift exit, too, not even taking the chance to disparage Haley to a crowd of reporters—just a couple of stiff one-handed waves before walking out the grand doors alone. ♦



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