NEW YORK • He said "yes". Mr Donald Trump on Thursday signed a Republican Party pledge demanding that all of its presidential candidates promise to forgo a third-party run and support the eventual nominee. And he did not do so quietly, instead holding a theatrical and meandering news conference.
With dozens of people standing behind him holding signs with his slogan, "Make America Great Again!" (and one referring to the Nixonian phrase "the silent majority"), Mr Trump addressed scepticism about his true intentions, saying: "I see no circumstances under which I would tear up that pledge."
More than 30 reporters, photographers and cameramen, some of whom had been waiting for hours, were at the event, which was closed to the public. When Mr Trump stepped out of his gleaming gold lift in Trump Tower, he held up his hand as employees roused the crowd with a cheer.
What did he receive in exchange for his signature? "I got nothing," he said, sounding somewhat like Mr Marlon Brando at the beginning of The Godfather movie. "I really got nothing, absolutely nothing other than the assurance" that he would be treated fairly, Mr Trump said.
His appearance followed a meeting with Mr Reince Priebus, the head of the Republican National Committee, who is also obtaining the signatures of Mr Trump's 16 rivals for the party's nomination.
And why, Mr Trump was asked, was Mr Priebus not appearing with him at the news conference?
That would have looked like an endorsement, Mr Trump insisted, saying he had urged the party chairman to avoid it.
But the optics of the event were clear: The head of the Republican Party had come to Mr Trump's flashy office in Manhattan, a tribute that was unlikely to be accorded the other candidates.
But threaded through the skewering of his rivals and his discussion of poll numbers were signs of a new restraint and a new level of polish; Mr Trump, a first-time candidate, seems to have tempered his performance since he entered the presidential race in June.
He declined to answer a question about barely dressed women who had recently created a furore by parading around Times Square, calling the matter "inappropriate" to discuss at a news conference. He refused to chime in on the case of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who was ordered jailed on Thursday for refusing to issue licences for same-sex marriages, saying he did not know enough about it.
Still, there were points at which Mr Trump could not resist taking some swings. What about Mr Kanye West, who announced at the MTV Video Music Awards this week that he planned to run for president in 2020, which may or not be true?
"I will never say anything bad about him, you know why?" Mr Trump asked. "Because he loves Trump!"
NEW YORK TIMES