FLETCHER, N.C. — Donald Trump came to the stump Friday armed with his usual attack lines - and a surprising few moments of self-reflection.
The Republican nominee paused his usual bombast and ceaseless attacks on Hillary Clinton to opine on his plans for the last stretch of the 2016 election. Promising days full of rallies, Trump knew the physical toll the final push to the finish line might take on him.
"I don't know what kind of shape I'm in," Trump surmised of the future. "But I'll be happy and at least I will have known, win, lose or draw - and I'm almost sure, if the people come out, we're gonna win - but I will be, I will be happy with myself."
Appealing to the North Carolina crowd that more than half-filled the WNC Agricultural Center, the businessman said he didn't want to look back and wish he'd done one more rally or wonder later if maybe that would've pushed him over the edge in the battleground state. "So, we have to work," Trump said, rallying cheers. He admitted later he was "invigorated" by the reception.
Maintaining a softer tone, he explained he was once "part of the other side" that he now calls rigged and corrupt. "This country has been great to me," he explained. "And I said our country will not survive if we continue to play that game." His knowledge of the system from the inside, Trump reasoned, will allow him to reform it from the outside if elected.
But those few minutes where Trump didn't lob attacks were short-lived. "What a waste of time if we don't pull this off," Trump growled amid a now-frequent and hyperbolized riff about Clinton receiving debate questions early.
Misrepresenting hacked emails from Wikileaks that purported to show the DNC's Donna Brazile (then of CNN) receiving debate questions during the primary, Trump said he wondered if Clinton got early access to questions during general election debates — which there is no proof of. "But it doesn't matter because we won," Trump decided, leaving the point to linger in the minds of his voters, many of whom already believe the system is rigged with tricks against their candidate.
Still steeping his attacks in the Wikileaks hack, Trump unleashed a new line, saying Clinton "tried to get 12 million (dollars) from the king of Morocco for an appearance. More pay to play."
Trump also went after Michelle Obama, one of Hillary Clinton's most effective surrogates in recent weeks. "Wasn't she the one that originally started the statement if you can't take care of your home, right? You can't take care of the White House or the country?" Trump said, paraphrasing an attack line used by Mrs. Obama during the 2008 election. Attempting to point out the inauthenticity in Obama's surrogacy of Clinton, Trump again pushed "she's the one that started it."