NEW YORK — In celebrating his victory in New York on Tuesday night, Donald Trump took eight minutes to give a structured, succinct speech that contained no cursing, no name-calling, no self-aggrandizing and only limited rambling. He didn't even mention "Crooked Hillary" and he referred to "Lyin' Ted" as "Senator Cruz." He skipped taking questions from the media and, therefore, the opportunity to ridicule individual reporters or dodge their questions.
This was America's introduction to the new Donald Trump, one who has undergone a rapid transformation this month after hiring a new team of experienced strategists who are determined to lock down the nomination for him. He's tweeting less, staying off the Sunday news shows and even reading from scripts in an effort to appear more presidential.
Trump came sauntering into his victory party in the pink-marble-lined lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan on Tuesday night to the swinging notes of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York." Ahead of his arrival, televisions in the lobby were tuned to Megyn Kelly on Fox News Channel instead of CNN, the channel of choice at earlier primary-night parties. It was a subtle sign of Trump embracing the Republican establishment that he has ridiculed and fought for months.
Trump took his time getting to the lectern, took his time greeting guests and took his time making his remarks, which seemed planned and prepared for the occasion. He seemed a bit annoyed when his laundry list of thank yous was interrupted by a rally chant — "USA! USA!" — a display a rowdiness that just didn't match his serene and in-control demeanor.
After thanking his family and his campaign staff — which he described as "a team of unity" that's constantly "evolving" and not being shaken up like the press has reported — Trump launched into a concise pitch to voters. He promised to bring back jobs from overseas, use the brilliant business leaders he knows to negotiate better trade deals, block U.S. companies from moving to Mexico, build up the military, care for military veterans and get rid of the Affordable Care Act and Common Core education standards. Later, he reiterated that the economy and jobs are his "wheelhouse."
There was no mention of waterboarding, banning most Muslims from entering the country, building a wall along the Mexican border or any of the other controversial ideas that Trump has proposed and defended.
"We are going to be so strong again. We are going to be really — I mean, legit-i-mately — so great again," Trump said at one point during the speech. "And I just can't wait. So, we don't have much of a race anymore, based on what I'm seeing on television. Senator Cruz is just about mathematically eliminated. And we've won another state."
Paul Manafort, Trump's new convention manager, insisted Tuesday that no one should be surprised by this softer, more focused, more presidential version of his boss.
"He's been out there for nine months — you grow, and he's growing," Manafort said. When asked if this was coached growth, Manafort replied: "No, no, no, he's been growing on his own."
Trump laid out his concerns about how the Republican Party picks its nominee, managing to do so without publicly shaming the party chairman or accusing Cruz of stealing but still calling the system "rigged." Trump said that candidates should only receive the support of state-level delegates who eventually pick the nominee at the party convention if voters allow for that to happen.
"It's really nice to win the delegates with the votes. You know? It's really nice," Trump said, a bit passive aggressively as the crowd began to chant once again, this time opting for: "Trump! Trump! Trump!"
The campaign is confident that Trump can secure the support of the 1,237 state delegates needed to lock down the Republican nomination, especially after Trump's big win in New York — but aides acknowledge that it won't be easy. The past few weeks seem to have brought a sobering realization to the larger-than-life candidate: He can't do this alone, and he doesn't know everything.
Fewer than eight minutes after starting, Trump began to wrap up his brief remarks.
"Have a great evening -- we celebrate, and tomorrow morning we go back to work," Trump said. "I'm flying tomorrow morning to Indiana. I'm going to Pennsylvania. I will be all over. So we're going to celebrate for about two hours, then early in the morning I get up, and we begin working again."