Trump tries to stay on message in the campaign's home stretch

HERSHEY, PA. - Donald Trump is pretty much sticking to the script in these final days.

As the number of campaign days dwindle, and the number of campaign rallies increases, Trump is relying largely on a set speech that hits major issues tied together by an overarching theme: relentless attacks on Hillary Clinton.

From the granite hills of New Hampshire to the chocolate empire of Hershey, Pa., Trump is zeroing in on wedge issues he believes will boost his chances on Election Day: Obamacare (which Clinton supported), government corruption (which he argues Clinton embodies), criticism of the media (which allegedly favors Clinton), lost jobs and trade deals (which Clinton has supported), and an attack on the foreign policy she designed as secretary of State.

"Pennsylvania, you are so important," Trump told followers late Friday in a Hershey hockey arena as he made his habitual plea for voters to get to the polls.

Earlier, at a rally in Atkinson, N.H., Trump told cheering backers: "We are just — can you believe this? — four days away ... We're four days away from the change you've been waiting for your entire life."

While Trump still veers off topic, whether it's talking about his parents or praising signs he sees in the crowd, he is largely avoiding the kinds of statements that have sidetracked his campaign in previous months. Like that time he suggested that supporters of the Second Amendment might have to do something about Clinton, or when he suggested he would like to punch a protester in the face.

"Cool ... nice and cool ... right?" Trump said during a rally this week in Pensacola, Fla., joking about his volatile ways. As if to mock his own campaign advisers, Trump mimicked, " 'Stay on point, Donald, stay on point' ... 'no sidetracks, Donald, nice and easy, nice.' "

During a tour that has included Florida, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, the final version of Trump's stump speech has a recognizable pattern.

After beginning with a discussion of favorable polls — and urging backers to make sure they vote — Trump often mentions local issues, such as the drug problem in New Hampshire. He then lays down markers against Clinton, citing "breaking news" about legal problems he claims would linger after the election.

"If she were to win, it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis," Trump said in New Hampshire, echoing comments he has made throughout the week. "What a mess."

In Hershey, Trump proclaimed, "this will go on for years."

Trump then tends to launch into an attack on President Obama's health care plan, saying it has led to higher premiums and lower quality. Clinton, he says, wants to "double down" on the system known as Obamacare, "making it even more expensive than it already is."

The Republican candidate then talks about claims of government corruption, again focusing on Clinton, frequently citing hacked emails supplied by WikiLeaks and news reports about the FBI's review of Clinton's private email system. In offering a plan to restrict lobbying by former government officials, Trump often leads the crowd in chants of "drain the swamp" — and occasionally he will echo the anti-Clinton chant "lock her up."

While he often mixes and matches different segments of his stump speech, Trump always goes for media criticism, describing journalists during his speech in Pennsylvania as "the most dishonest people there are." Earlier, in New Hampshire, he said: "They're just bad people, the media."

In moving toward the jobs issue, Trump pledges to rework trade deals he claims have sent industrial jobs overseas. He calls it "the greatest jobs theft in the history of world," a claim — debunked by members of both parties — that he repeated Friday.

The Republican nominee's foreign policy critique ranges from the Iran nuclear agreement to U.S. involvement in Iraq and Libya to the prospect of Syrian refugees entering the United States. His call for an anti-migration wall between the United States and Mexico always draws big cheers from his backers. He frequently heaps scorn on Obama as well as his former secretary of State.

Trump also talks about his first 100 days in office, an agenda that includes tax cuts, reduced regulations and rebuilding the military.

In addition to Clinton, Trump's speech blames these problems on the entire political class, emphasizing another major theme: He is the outsider who can change the system.

"It is time for new leadership," Trump said. "We need change ... we need change."

The Clinton campaign and other Democrats see a different pattern in Trump's speeches: a businessman bully who is ill-prepared and ill-suited for presidency, engaging in near libelous attacks on his many critics.

The pro-Clinton group Correct The Record said Friday that Trump "is a serial liar," citing the findings of various independent fact-finding organizations.

"Even worse," the group said, "Trump endlessly repeats his worst lies, even after they have been completely debunked. And with the presidential campaign almost over, Trump shows no plans of slowing down."

Trump's backers, of course, eat up his speeches.

"Save us," one supporter yelled at Trump in New Hampshire.

"He said 'Save us,' " Trump told the crowd. "We're all going to save ourselves."


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