They called him a madman, a con man, a cancer and worse during an ugly nominating fight, but in the week since Donald J. Trump became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, many of his former rivals and members of the party’s establishment are already softening on him.
Hard feelings are often short-lived in presidential politics, but the personal nature of this year’s race raised fears that unity would be hard to achieve. While a battered former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and a bruised Senator Ted Cruz of Texas are still keeping their distance from Mr. Trump, the recent outreach among others who assailed him for months has been swift and striking.
Perhaps the starkest example of this was Senator Lindsey Graham, whose personal cellphone number was read aloud publicly by Mr. Trump last year in a prank that set the schoolyard tone of the campaign. The Republican from South Carolina has regularly called Mr. Trump “the most unprepared person I’ve ever met to be commander in chief,” and he once likened backing Mr. Trump to being shot.
It appeared to be just a flesh wound, however, as the two men put their differences aside this week and spoke by telephone to discuss national security policy. Calling their 15-minute conversation “cordial,” Mr. Graham offered rare praise for Mr. Trump.
“He’s got a great sense of humor,” Mr. Graham, who is still withholding his endorsement, told reporters on Thursday. “He obviously can take a punch.”
The quickest ex-rival to embrace Mr. Trump was Rick Perry, who less than a year ago took to the microphone at a forum in Washington and declared that Mr. Trump must be stopped. “Let no one be mistaken — Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded,” he said.
Now the former Texas governor has endorsed Mr. Trump and went as far as saying he was ready to serve as a running mate if called upon. “He is not a perfect man,” Mr. Perry told CNN after Mr. Trump’s remaining rivals dropped out. “But what I do believe is that he loves this country and he will surround himself with capable, experienced people, and he will listen to them.”
Former Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana was among the fiercest in his attacks on Mr. Trump before his presidential campaign fizzled out last September, ridiculing the Manhattan businessman’s distinctive hair and describing him as an “egomaniac with no principles” and “a madman who must be stopped.”
But in a Wall Street Journal op-ed article this week, Mr. Jindal was singing a different tune about Mr. Trump. Explaining why he would vote for the party’s new standard-bearer, he said that Hillary Clinton would be a far scarier alternative. “I do not pretend Donald Trump is the Reaganesque leader we so desperately need, but he is certainly the better of two bad choices.”
Other establishment figures are also coming around faster than some expected. Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, publicly endorsed Mr. Trump without hesitation after their meeting on Thursday in Washington. Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul and passionate pro-Israel advocate, endorsed Mr. Trump in a Washington Post op-ed article on Friday.
“You may not like Trump’s style or what he says on Twitter, but this country needs strong executive leadership more today than at almost any point in its history,” Mr. Adelson wrote, calling on all Republicans to coalesce behind him.
While critics such as Mitt Romney have continued to speak out against Mr. Trump, much of the “Never Trump” contingent seems to have gone quiet. For them, there is 2020 to think about, and those who disapprove of the candidate might not want to be seen as having helped Mrs. Clinton win the presidency if she defeats Mr. Trump in November.
“The biggest uniting force in the Republican Party is the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency,” said Ryan Williams, a political consultant and former spokesman for Mr. Romney. “That is a motivating factor in mollifying even some of Mr. Trump’s harshest critics.”
Still, for those who fought the hardest against Mr. Trump, making peace will not come easy.
Senator Marco Rubio stood by his pledge to support the Republican nominee in an interview with CNN this week, but he struggled to reference Mr. Trump by name and said that his concerns about his former rival continue to apply.
The wounds appeared to be most fresh for Mr. Cruz, who until last week was hoping to capture the nomination at a contested convention. He said in a radio interview on the “Michael Berry Show” on Thursday that he still plans to go to Cleveland July 18-21 to cheer on the delegates, but it was clear that the ill will toward Mr. Trump has not subsided.
“Well listen, there’s time for recriminations and, you know, everyone who was responsible for the rise of Donald Trump, they will bear that responsibility going forward,” Mr. Cruz said when asked about the news media’s role in Mr. Trump’s success.
Douglas G. Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University, noted that while most parties tend to unify before a general election, some politicians never do. He recalled that Gerald R. Ford never really forgave Ronald Reagan for challenging him for the Republican nomination in 1976, and that Ted Kennedy famously snubbed Jimmy Carter on the Democrats’ convention floor four years later.
For Mr. Cruz and Mr. Trump, he surmised, the relationship could be beyond repair after months of sniping that went beyond the usual political fare.
“When you dub someone for life as ‘Lyin’ Ted’ and now suddenly you’re smiling with your arms around each other, it’s a hard-pressed photo op,” Mr. Brinkley said.