PALM BEACH, Florida — “This is a really interesting process,” Donald Trump said, earnestly.
“I’m having a very nice time,” he added, “but you know what? I’m working very hard and there is great anger, believe me... I’m just very proud to be a part of this.”
He was onstage at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, on Tuesday night, having just won at least three of the five winner-take-all contests—including 45 percent of the vote in the primary here. He forced Marco Rubio, the state’s own senator, to bow out of the race, leaving just three remaining candidates, down from the original 17.
But while Trump winnowed the field and grew his delegate lead closer to the 1,237 threshold needed to secure the Republican nomination, he didn’t do well enough to put an end to the race altogether. John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, won his home state by a decisive 10-point margin. To win now, Trump will need to claim 57 percent of the remaining delegates, and the odds of a contested convention, once considered highly improbable, are greater than ever.
By the early afternoon, while voting was still underway, there were so many news trucks surrounding Mar-a-Lago that it looked like the scene outside the Neverland Ranch after Michael Jackson died. Traffic was backed up to the ocean.
A short drive away, at the firehouse across from the Palm Beach town hall, voters came dressed in linen and pastels, with big sunglasses over their eyes and and Gucci loafers on their sockless feet.
Ira Schneider stood at the booth, in blue seersucker pants and a white polo shirt, holding Cupid, his 7-year-old Maltese, in one hand while voting for Trump with the other.
Schneider stuck an “I Made Freedom Count I Voted Did You?” sticker between two blue bows on Cupid’s head.
“I think Donald Trump’s going to win,” he said. He described himself as a Republican (Cupid’s political affiliation was not disclosed) but more importantly, he said, he’s sure that Trump is a “gentleman” because “we happen to know him… personally, somewhat.”
This was not uncommon to hear on Tuesday in Palm Beach, where, since 1985, Trump has owned Mar-a-Lago—a 118-room private club built in the 1920s by heiress and socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post. It’s a town of less than nine thousand, 29 of whom are his fellow billionaires, like Bill Gates and David and Bill Koch, one where private clubs like Trump’s, and The Everglades Club, which predates Mar-a-Lago by some 80 years (Mar-a-Lago was originally a residence), act as power centers for the sun-spotted elites.
Schneider, a New York transplant who’s lived in Palm Beach for eight years, said he was in his 70s and “semi-retired” from the “manufacturing” business. “I think he’ll be good for business, good for the country, and I don’t like a lot of the positions that a lot of the Democrats are taking and I think he’ll be a very strong candidate,” he said.
Specifically, he thinks Trump could improve “the trouble in the Middle East, Europe, the economy, and the general attitude with the public that is going on right now.”
He drove off in a white Mercedes, with Cupid sitting on his lap, but not before rolling down the window to reiterate the fact that he strongly agrees with Trump about the Middle East.
Trump has given so many victory speeches at this point that he seems bored of them. He begins by thanking the crowd, then he pivots to reminding them that nine months ago, nobody believed he could do this, then he goes about his usual stump speech and sometimes he tries to sell a raw steak.
For Kasich, however, giving victory speeches as a presidential candidate is new, and he seemed to hardly believe what was happening at his rally in Berea, Ohio—20 minutes outside of Cleveland.
Before he addressed his supporters, he walked around the stage and clapped along with them, as if watching the event happen to someone else.
“To have people believe in you and to believe that you can bring people together and strengthen our country—I have to thank the people of the great state of Ohio,” he said. “I love you.”
Bernie Zahn, a retiree who traveled to Ohio from New York to volunteer for the Kasich campaign, sported a tie with baseballs on it.
“You know this tie?” he said. “It stands for a whole new ballgame.”
But the ballgame is largely the same.
Despite his homestate win, Kasich’s support remains only marginal, and his path to the nomination nonexistent. And despite violence breaking out at his rallies and his own campaign manager having allegedly assaulted a member of the press, Trump remains on top.
He’s on top despite multimillion-dollar ad campaigns by several anti-Trump super PACs that would have withered normal candidates. The ads used his own statements, made in public, against him, but they appeared to have no effect on his support in several key states.
Faced with this golden cockroach of a frontrunner, the most Kasich can hope for now is to aid Ted Cruz, who remained locked in a virtual tie with Trump in Missouri as of press time, in forcing a contested convention.
Gene Reed, an “automobile dealer and investor,” was the last man to vote in Palm Beach. He wore a pink, blue and red silk shirt and red crocodile loafers. He wouldn’t disclose who he voted for, only that he was a Republican and a personal acquaintance of the entire Trump family.
“I know Donald Trump and each of his sons and his daughter and his wife,” he said. “As a person, I think he’s a nice guy—of course, he’s been very successful—and I think he’s different than he is when he’s up there talking.”
—with additional reporting by Betsy Woodruff and Gideon Resnick