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OpinionColumnistsMichael Dobie

Donald Trump inches closer to the presidency

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump makes his way

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump makes his way along a line of supporters before speaking during a primary night news conference, Tuesday, April 26, 2016, in Manhattan. Photo Credit: AP

Welcome to Trump 3.0.
Forget the pivot.
Republican Donald Trump flirted with acting more presidential over the past week, as many have implored him. But after going 5-for-5 with five home runs in Tuesday night’s Republican primaries, he declared he has no intention of changing his public persona.
“It’s over, as far as I’m concerned ... So why would I change,” Trump said in his victory speech. “It got me here.”
Then he referred to the Democratic front-runner as “Crooked Hillary” and said all she had going for herself  was the “women’s card,” stirring the echoes of the frequent Lyin’ Ted references in recent days and the mocking of John Kasich’s eating habits, and it was clear that Trump has decided — for now, anyway — that you’re just going to have to take him as he is.
And what he is, he declared from Trump Tower, is the party’s “presumptive nominee.”
Now, we’ll see which Trump shows up for Wednesday’s ballyhooed foreign policy speech in Washington, D.C. He promised to address issues and even perhaps use a teleprompter. If he aces that audition, or at least passes it, and then adds a victory in Indiana next Tuesday, it becomes impossible to see how the GOP continues to talk about denying him its nomination.
Just look at the map that’s colored Trump. It includes the Northeast, the Deep South, much of the Midwest, and a couple of Western states. Now add in a lopsided delegate count, the optics of a freight train-style win streak, and a so-called main rival and anybody-but-Trump alternative in the thoroughly unlikable Sen. Ted Cruz who notched a bunch of third-place finishes Tuesday.
It’s no wonder Trump joined Hillary Clinton in looking ahead to the general election in their respective speeches Tuesday night. Each made pointed remarks about the other — setting up what likely is going to be one ugly and brutal campaign — and each also praised Trump’s outsider-in-arms, Bernie Sanders.
Sanders did manage a victory in Rhode Island, the only of the five states with an open primary, but the road to the Democratic nomination for the Vermont senator virtually disappeared with losses in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Connecticut. On Monday, he said Clinton, if she won the nomination, would have to woo him to gain his support. And that’s exactly what she did Tuesday. She praised him and his supporters. She celebrated his candidacy. She thanked him for raising important issues. And she invited the Sanders movement to join hers and solve problems together.
Trump praised, thanked, and invited Sanders, too. He praised Sanders for drawing crowds almost as large as his, thanked him for speaking the truth about Clinton when he said she was not qualified to be president, and invited him to run an independent campaign in the fall — knowing that would be an enormous advantage for Trump in splitting the opposition.
As strategy, it was downright presidential.