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Did Donald Trump just call for Republican unity on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’?

Donald Trump

Donald Trump during an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” Wednesday.

(Courtesy Randy Holmes / ABC)

Before the Republican front-runner for president took the stage on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” Wednesday night, the host was pulling no punches, characterizing billionaire Donald Trump as a bully and saying that at one point he had to decide “whether to buy the United States or just become our president.”

After playing a clip of Trump hounding Jeb Bush during Tuesday’s Republican debate, Kimmel added, “And then he took his lunch money and pulled his underwear up to his neck.”

But Trump was uncharacteristically subdued throughout the show, laughing and smiling as Kimmel read him a made-up Trump-inspired children’s book titled “Winners Aren’t Losers” and even striking a conciliatory tone toward his Republican opponents.

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“I would like to see the Republican Party come together,” Trump told Kimmel. “I’ve been a little bit divisive in the sense that I’ve been hitting people pretty hard.”

“A little bit, yeah,” Kimmel dead-panned, to laughter in the audience.

“Ultimately, I would like to come together and get this thing done,” Trump said, though he added that he’d prefer that lower-tier candidates like former New York Gov. George Pataki and Sen. Lindsey Graham get off the “children’s stage” and drop out of the race.

Trump also couldn’t resist the opportunity to get in some barbs against Jeb Bush, his most frequent sparring partner during Tuesday’s debate.

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“He’s having a hard time because … everyone thought he was the odds-on favorite,” Trump said of the former Florida governor, who took a more aggressive stance toward him Tuesday. “I said he’s a low-energy individual. We do not need, in this country, low energy.”

Kimmel, who skewered the billionaire in October after he canceled an appearance at the last minute, pressed Trump about his plan to temporarily ban entry of Muslims into the United States and his proposals on immigration.

“Isn’t it un-American and wrong to discriminate against people based on their religion?” Kimmel asked the audience, to more applause.

“We have people coming into our country that are looking to do tremendous harm,” Trump replied, citing the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. “These people did not come from Sweden, OK? … You can’t solve a problem until you’ve found out what’s the root cause.”

Trump insisted to Kimmel that “many” of his Muslim friends had called to thank him after he rolled out his policy statement about restricting Muslims’ entry.

“Those may have been crank calls,” Kimmel said, to plenty of laughter.

Asking Trump about his immigration proposals, including the building of a massive wall on the U.S. border with Mexico, Kimmel pointed out that Guillermo Rodriguez, his sidekick on the show and a minor TV celebrity, came to the United States illegally before going through the process to gain legal status.

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“Don’t we want people who want to be here so badly that they will risk everything to be in America and to be an American? Aren’t those the people that we want in this country?” Kimmel asked.

Trump had a familiar retort, saying, “thousands of Hispanics” had worked for him over the years and calling them “unbelievable people.”

Donald Trump

“What I’m saying is they have to come through a legal process. We’re going to have a big, beautiful door. We want people to come in; we want people to come in legally.”

Trump’s appearance comes two months after the candidate canceled an appearance on the show at the last minute.

At the time, Kimmel didn’t let Trump’s absence go unnoticed. “Why did he cancel? We told him there were cameras here, right?" Kimmel said to the audience. “Don’t worry,” he added, “tonight we’re gonna give everyone in the audience a basketball dipped in cologne so you can fully experience what it would have been like had Donald Trump been here.”

When Hillary Clinton appeared on the show last month, Kimmel asked the former first lady whether she would win in a hypothetical race against her husband and whether Clinton would be referred to as the “First Dude.”

Trump is no stranger to “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” or to being the butt of jokes on many of the late-night comedy shows.

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study released this week by the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University shows that Trump was the butt of 308 jokes by late-night comedians over a two-month period ending in October, more than the rest of the GOP field combined.

Hillary Clinton was a distant second to Trump in number of punchlines at her expense, with 107 jokes in that time period.

And, for anyone who’s worried, Kimmel’s zingers on Wednesday will be added to the total: “The joke totals will be updated throughout the 2016 Presidential Campaign,” the university assures.

For more on California politics, follow me @cmaiduc

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