DES MOINES, Iowa — After an off-message week, Donald Trump finally hit his stride Friday afternoon, spending nearly the entirety of his hour long remarks attacking Hillary Clinton and predicting "destruction of this country from within" should she win in November.
"We're going to be talking about the Queen of Corruption," Trump previewed at the top of his remarks. He stayed true to his word, rarely shifting off his anti-Clinton message. When he did stray, he used the time to disparage the media and set the record straight on headlines regarding a baby that Trump, perhaps jokingly, kicked out of his rally earlier in the week.
The GOP nominee questioned Clinton's policy judgment and stability repeatedly, in front of a crowd that chanted "lock her up," called her a "traitor," and one woman who labeled Clinton a "liar, liar, pants on fire."
"She's pretty close to unhinged and you've seen it," Trump said, adding that she's "like an unbalanced person."
"If Hillary Clinton becomes president you will have, you will have terrorism, you will have problems, you will have, really, in my opinion, the destruction of this country from within," Trump told the crowd.
At times referencing notes, Trump ticked down a list of attacks against his Democratic rival, including her lack of press conferences, use of a private email server, and policy decisions that Trump says have resulted in, and will continue to breed, chaos.
Speaking at length about Iran and the drop of $400 million in various currencies by the U.S. into the country, Trump reminded of Clinton's role in the administration's policy toward Iran. "Hillary supports and helped create Obama's disastrous Iran deal," Trump said, adding that Secretary of State John Kerry "finished it."
Pence, for his part, joined in on the attack, earning some laughs when criticizing Clinton for her answer Friday afternoon that she "may have short circuited" on her untrue characterization of FBI Director Comey's statements on her email server. The Indiana gov also carried the campaign's false assertions that Clinton said she would raise taxes on the middle class during a rally in Omaha earlier in the week.
"Apparently she accidentally spoke the truth," Pence said. "But she corrected herself very quickly."
Trump seemed aware of his VP's appeal, telling the crowd they didn't need to like him to vote for the GOP ticket. "If you don't like me, that's OK," Trump assured. "Vote for Pence! Because it's the same thing."
The Republican nominee also sought to set the record straight about his stance on babies at his rallies, after calling for a baby to be removed from his rally earlier in the week in Ashburn, Virginia after it continued to interrupt his remarks. "You can get that baby out of here," Trump said Tuesday, minutes after he told the mother "don't worry about that baby, I love babies."
Now the GOP standard bearer is rehashing the non-controversy on his own terms and using it as yet another example of the media he seems convinced is out to get him. Setting the scene, Trump told a subdued yet supportive Iowa crowd that a "beautiful baby" was crying — "this baby could've been Pavarotti!" He jokingly suggested getting the baby "training" so it could become like the renowned opera star.
As the nominee tells it, his first instinct was to "keep the baby, don't worry about it." But "then, after about 2 minutes I said I'm going to counteract my order. If you take that baby outside it's not so bad," Trump said.
"The press came out with headlines: 'Trump throws baby out of arena.' So dishonest," Trump said.
The nominee has recently blitzed the media for what he feels is continued unfair coverage of his campaign. His campaign has even come out with a "Media Bias of the Day" email that highlights one particular outlet or network for their work. Crowds at these rallies have noticed the uptick in anti-media talk — and some even assume the mantle on behalf of their candidate. Before Friday's rally, one man patrolled the press pen, asking reporters, "Are you trashing Trump today?"
As Trump closed out his rally, he warned once again of the press: "You'll read a story tomorrow and you'll hear everything very differently from what we all know it is. Like the baby! I love that baby!"