CHARLESTON, W.Va.—As the last man standing in the Republican presidential primary, Donald Trump made peace with his rivals while training all of his fire on Hillary Clinton in his first rally as the GOP’s presumptive nominee on Thursday.
Gone were the references to “Lyin’ Ted” and “1-for-42,” his moniker for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. With both exiting the race this week, Trump was free to hone in on his one remaining rival: Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
"We cannot take Hillary Clinton anymore. We cannot--we've had enough of Clinton,” he told the crowd.
Trump targeted Clinton on her family foundation, which he called a “disgusting situation” and a “scam” even while acknowledging he contributed to the foundation, though he said he thought they’d “use it properly” rather than using it to “fly around in private jets.” He also charged she’d be beholden to lobbyists, and that NAFTA was “a Clinton deal signed by Clinton,” calling it the “most destructive thing.”
He also noted Clinton’s apology for saying she would put “a lot of coal companies out of business,” expressing skepticism she was actually apologetic.
“You think she was kidding? Do you really think? Ok? And then she comes here, 2 days ago and she's begging for your vote. Well I didn’t really mean that. I didn't really mean that. But that's her true feeling. That's her true feeling,” he said.
But he took a decidedly more conciliatory approach to the GOP. Though many in the party have begun to come around to Trump in the 24 hours since he became the presumptive nominee, he still maintains a few high-profile critics in the party — most notably among them House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said Thursday he was “not ready” to support Trump.
Trump made no mention of Ryan, or any of the other holdouts in the party. Instead he offered up an olive branch to the party, noting he’d be raising money for the GOP in the general because he wants to “get a lot of other people elected with us” and giving the party a pass on its delegate system, which he spent weeks decrying as “rigged” and “corrupt.”
“You hear me say it’s a rigged system, but now I don’t say it anymore cause I won,” Trump admitted, in a moment of characteristic bluntness.
But now, he said, he has no issues with his rivals.
“After you win, you like everybody,” he said, noting when asked how he felt about his rivals, he said “I love em, they’re my best friends.”
Indeed, Trump seemed ready to put to bed much of the clashes of the primary, and focus in on his general election pitch. He went so far as to tell the crowd to “stay home” on Tuesday, but “get twice as many people [to vote] in November.”
And his general election pitch didn’t vary much at his West Virginia rally from what his supporters have come to expect from Trump throughout the primary: A pledge to build a wall across the Southern border, prevent companies from outsourcing jobs, revitalize the manufacturing industry and help America “win” again.
Trump avoided almost entirely one key issue that’s typically gotten him into hot water, however: Foreign policy, honing in instead on the struggles faced by coal miners in West Virginia, and the working class across America.
With West Virginia’s economy ravaged by the rapid decline of the coal industry, due in part, Republicans say, to the environmental policies of President Obama that Hillary Clinton would continue, the state has become a political hot spot over the past week.
He told the miners he was “fascinated” with the mines and said though running for president took courage, it wasn’t the kind of courage needed to be a miner.
It was a preview of a general election pitch laser-focused on the white working-class voters who feel left out of the economy, voters Trump’s advisers say will help him compete in states that have traditionally voted Democratic and turn swing states over to Republicans.
“You’re amazing people and we’re gonna take care of you after a lot of years of horrible abuse,” he told the crowd.