ABINGDON, Virginia — What began as an ode to coal turned into Donald Trump bashing the latest release of Hillary Clinton emails and his stump speech on political leader's incompetence.
With miners in hard hats and uniforms behind him, Trump promised to bring back mining jobs and attacked Clinton for her since-apologized for comments about putting coal miners and coal companies out of business.
"Hillary will be a horror show" for miners and coal, Trump said, casting himself as someone who will be "an unbelievable positive" for the group. "The mines will be gone if she gets elected," he promised.
Seeming to gripe about U.S. regulations on clean coal, Trump compared United States coal to that of China. “They’re not cleaning it,” Trump said. “Believe me, they’re not cleaning it. We have a very, very small planet compared to the universe, right? And that stuff is going up and they’re not cleaning it.”
Speaking in an uncharacteristically monotone voice with slower than usual cadence, Trump read, at times, from notes on his podium. He listed the loss of mining and manufacturing jobs in the state, blamed NAFTA for the “destruction of manufacturing” in the state, and lambasted Virginia Sen. and Clinton VP Tim Kaine for the job he did as governor in the state.
But his newest attack on Hillary Clinton was allegations of "pay for play," based on a new batch of her emails from conservative Judicial Watch. Included in this release, emails that show instances of overlapping interests between Clinton's State Department and the Clinton Foundation.
"A couple of very bad ones came out and it's called 'pay for play," Trump said of the newly published emails. "Some of these were really, really bad and illegal, if it's true."
The Clinton campaign told NBC News on Wednesday: "neither of these emails involve the Secretary or relate to the Foundation’s work. They are communications between her aides and the President’s personal aide, and indeed the recommendation was for one of the Secretary’s former staffers who was not employed by the Foundation.”
Trump's running mate Mike Pence also picked up this "pay for play" mantle, telling an Ohio crowd Wednesday that these emails "seem to provide direct evidence that favors were done by State Department officials for foreign donors to the Clinton Foundation. You know, that's the old pay to play system the American people are sick and tired of and Donald Trump and I are going to bring it to a crashing end in Washington, D.C."
But to some in Wednesday's Virginia crowd, Trump’s speech today was just an added bonus; they were already sold.
“I’m already voting for him so it doesn’t make a difference,” Gary Williams told NBC before the speech. That said, Trump’s speech on his vision for the economy on Monday was a big selling point for him. The message about jobs and infrastructure was for Williams, an “old bridge builder” and veteran himself, was what "put the button” on his vote of support.
Sitting next to his wife of 47 years, who helped organize the event and was also there to support Trump, he joked that he'd divorce her if she didn't vote for the GOP nominee.
Encouraging the crowd to get to the polls in November, Trump asked them to "give it one more chance" and mobilize the pro-coal voting bloc. Lamenting that these voters "just don't vote" he said they should give it "one more shot" and vote Trump to save the coal industry.
"I wanna win Virginia!" Trump said. He added later that he sees this election as "the last shot" for miners.