As New York's primary election, Trump Tower was predictably packed. Aging white businessmen, local pols, and other assorted rich people in Saks suits had crowded into the gilded Midtown lobby, straining against a velvet rope set up to contain their excitement. Teenagers in blazers stared up at the escalator, a Trumpian monument to the heady first day of the reality-TV star's 2016 campaign, when he ascended, waving slowly, into a crowd of paid extras, and announced he was running for president.
Donald Trump was set to return to the same room Tuesday—but this time he didn't need the escalator. Though the results in New York's primary had not been officially announced, the beaming fans in Trump Tower were clearly prepared for a victory lap. At 9 PM, when polls officially closed, they began chanting his name. Then, a little later, Frank Sinatra came on: "Start spreading the news…"
On cue, Trump strode into the lobby, flanked by his wife, Melania, and his children. He waved and smiled, shaking hands with well-dressed acolytes and business associates as he made his way up to the podium. As expected, the real estate mogul won New York's Republican primary by a landslide, with 60 percent of the vote and most of the state's 98 delegates. It was his night, his city, his America. And for a brief moment, he even sounded look like a real presidential candidate.
"It's really nice," Trump told the crowd warmly. "I have to say, when the people who know me the best, the people of New York, when they give me this kind of a vote. And it's just incredible."
Then, he cut to the bottom line: "We don't have much of a race anymore," Trump assured the audience. "Senator Cruz is just about mathematically eliminated—and we've won another state. We're really, really rocking."
As he spoke, reporters swarmed around the lobby, falling over television cameras and fighting over chairs to get an angle on the candidate. A master at wrangling his hometown press corps since his early days in real estate, Trump had billed Tuesday's event as a press conference, although he had no intention of taking any questions. But it got the media right where he wanted, allowing him to change the narrative about his campaign after weeks of bad headlines detailing staff shakeups, organizational dysfunction, and a general lack of awareness about what primaries actually are among the leaders of Trump's organization.
"My team has been amazing. It's actually a team of unity, it's evolving, but people don't understand that," he reminded us. "The press understands that—they just don't want to talk about it. But that's OK.
"Just keep talking," he continued, as reporters scribbled his every word. "It's very important: Just keep talking."
Hyperbole aside, Tuesday's primary was undoubtedly a major victory for Trump, pushing the Republican frontrunner closer toward racking up the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the nomination outright. By the same token, the results were also a setback for Cruz, whose campaign strategy relies on denying Trump a majority of votes on the convention floor. Apparently having failed to win over the state's voters with dog-whistle comments about their "values," the Texas senator finished a dismal third in New York, more than 10 points behind Ohio Governor John Kasich. But neither had a real chance against the frontrunner, and by Tuesday evening, both had fled New York for other upcoming primary states.
Ironically, the only New York county Trump appeared to lose was the one he spoke from Tuesday night; as of Tuesday night, Kasich was leading Manhattan by a couple of points. Not that it mattered much to Trump either way. The candidate found his groove, and it was right where it has always been.
"I have great admiration and praise for the city of New York, and the state of New York," he gushed Tuesday. "I can't think of nowhere that I'd rather have this victory."
"We love New York," he added, exiting the stage to cheers. "We love New York!"
Follow John on Twitter.