At almost 10 o’clock on Saturday night in the ornate dining room of Trump International Golf Course in West Palm Beach, the oak tables had been removed and replaced with rows of chairs facing a freshly painted gold-and-white podium that the club’s namesake would soon stand behind.
But where was Donald Trump? The press conference was scheduled to start an hour ago. While the reporters watched returns come in from Kentucky and posted pictures on Twitter, most of the crowd was getting antsy.
“When’s Donald coming out? When he’s good and ready,” said Ken Beer, a West Palm Beach dermatologist, reassuring friends and defending his candidate.
Beer, along with most of the others in attendance, is a dues-paying member at one of a trio of lavish clubs Trump owns in Palm Beach County. As has become Trump's habit in South Florida, he invited club members to the news conference, and seated them in the first few rows. For all the huge rallies and talk of angry outsiders, this small, expensively dressed group is Trump’s real base. There are CEOs, insurance brokers, health-care executives, former debutantes, trophy wives, and a woman in a short, sparkling silver dress (and thick bracelet to match) with an animal fur wrapped around her like a sash. There’s Ike Perlmutter, the Marvel Comics boss who gave $2 million to Marco Rubio’s presidential cause many months ago; Tova Leidesdorf, a former Miss Israel; and, another guest informs me, Patrick Swayze’s widow is in the room, too.
“I was supposed to go to New York Prime,” said Lisa Hersch, the owner of a home health agency. “But we got invited here tonight. And I said, you know, why not come out and show our support, because he’s getting beat up.”
Hersch, in a bright pink, low-cut dress with three-quarter sleeves, accessorized with a jewel-encrusted gold necklace, said she wanted to look vibrant for the occasion. “It’s very Palm Beach,” she said of her outfit, adding that it was part of a shopping spree the day before, just ahead of her 51st birthday. “I bought myself three bathing suits, three dresses, a massage, lunch at the Yacht Club. It was a great day. It was a girls’ day.”
Anjani Sinha, an orthopedic surgeon from Wellington, offered to make introductions to others in the crowd, which earlier was sipping champagne and cocktails at an open bar on the back patio, but transitioned to Trump-brand water and “Trump chocolates,” which look like gold coins imprinted with the Trump family seal. “Who do you want to interview?” he asked me. “I know everybody here. Boy, there are a lot of famous people. A lot of billionaires here.”
If you can get your mind around the idea of Donald Trump becoming the 45th president of the U.S., it’s easy to imagine him using his sprawling South Florida holdings as a series of White House Souths: tropical versions of the Bush family's Kennebunkport, Hyannis Port in pastels, Martha’s Vineyard with