Here was Mark Halperin's take on Trump:
I think the press wants Trump to seem "sufficiently reasonable and generally informed to win the nomination." I think the press wants him not to seem quite so scary. I'd argue that the things about Trump that are disturbing are what got him to the lead, but the headline of Rick Klein's analysis is "Donald Trump Tames His Ultimate Enemy -- Himself." No, that's wrong. Trump hasn't been hurting himself with his horrifying campaign. Just the opposite.
A Politico story bears the headline "Trump's New Debate Role: GOP Unifier."
Donald Trump ended Thursday night’s debate the same way he began it, calling for wary Republican leaders to unite behind his candidacy....All this is happening despite the fact that Trump is still saying appalling things, just not with insults attached (at least not last night). In the debate, he defended his "Islam hates us" remark. He refused to reject torture:
For Trump, it's part of a pivot toward the general election, where he'd want the full might of the Republican Party behind him in a faceoff with the Democratic nominee. And Trump argues the party is better off with him as well, saying its leaders should embrace the enthusiasm and new membership he has brought to the party....
While national Republican leaders remain deeply worried about the prospect of Trump as the party’s standard bearer in November, he has begun to pick up endorsements from Republican elected officials, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions. Others, including Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, have said they would not support Trump.
Before the debate Thursday, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus declared unequivocally that the RNC will support the nominee, whoever that may be.
Asked about torture techniques like waterboarding, Trump said: “We have to obey the laws, but we have to expand those laws” -- without explaining how he’d like to see them expanded.And he used coded racism to argue that any violence at his rallies was the victims' fault:
“We have some protesters who are bad dudes, they have done bad things,” Trump replied, “They are swinging, they are really dangerous and they get in there and start hitting people. And we had a couple big, strong, powerful guys doing damage to people — not only the loudness, the loudness I don’t mind. But doing serious damage.”Like Trump, I'm from the East, and I'm about a decade younger than he is, so trust me -- for someone of his background, "dude" is a code word for "scary black man."
But the press would like to be able to report that Trump is domesticated, because the press's message, whenever possible, is that it's never right to say that the Republican Party is more extreme or more dangerous than the Democratic Party. Trump's behavior challenges that dogma. But if he talks nice, the press can go right back to telling us that both parties are essentially the same, and are equally at fault for the nation's problems. Also, journalists friends in the Republican Party establishment want the press to say everything's under control.
So the media will be telling you a lot about Trump's pivot, and claiming it's completely successful, unless events make that message ludicrous. Of course, Trump probably can't stop being Trump, so events are unlikely to cooperate. But the press will increasingly claim that nothing's truly going wrong in the GOP.