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Donald Trump, in a Trade Speech in New Hampshire, Veers Off to Jab Mexico

In classic Donald Trump fashion, the billionaire veered off course during a trade speech to take a shot at Mexico.

The New York Times reports:

Donald J. Trump was seven minutes into an address on Thursday on the loading dock of a shuttered lighting plant here in New Hampshire, reading from prepared remarks, when he turned his attention to Mexico. That country’s leaders are smarter than those in the United States, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said.

Then, as the sound of a plane overhead drowned out his voice, Mr. Trump went off his script.

“In fact,” Mr. Trump said, pointing his finger toward the sky, “that could be a Mexican plane up there. They’re getting ready to attack.”

The comment was reminiscent of the shoot-from-the-lip style that was a hallmark of his insurgent primary campaign, rather than the more scripted and disciplined approach he has sought to take in recent weeks after a series of remarks entangled him in controversy as he began his general election bid.

But as Mr. Trump moves to be more of the conventional candidate that many Republicans hope he will be, there is a concern among many in the party that no matter how much Mr. Trump’s aides try to harness his message, there are limits to how much he will adjust.

The appearance on Thursday was the type Mr. Trump largely avoided during the New Hampshire primary campaign — a small event, about 150 people, focused on a specific issue, with questions from the audience. The setting was the old Osram Sylvania lighting manufacturing plant in Manchester, and the topic was trade, an issue on which Mr. Trump has been consistent over many years, denouncing an imbalance with countries like China and Japan.

The event was hastily thrown together after a major speech that Mr. Trump gave on the issue had been overshadowed by the terrorist attack at Istanbul’s main airport. The campaign could not get permission to use the plant itself, which was gutted after closing in 2014, so Mr. Trump spoke outdoors, in the blazing sun, with temperatures climbing toward 90 degrees.

Corey Lewandowski, the campaign manager who had championed a “let Trump be Trump” approach and whom Mr. Trump fired less than two weeks ago, showed up at the speech, startling reporters. It wasn’t clear whether Mr. Lewandowski, a New Hampshire resident, had met with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump praised himself for holding an event attended by people he described as “totally unvetted.” Then he made a word association: “And speaking of unvetted, we’re going to take care of our vets.”

New Hampshire and Maine, both overwhelmingly white, are places where Mr. Trump is focusing his time. New Hampshire, in particular, is a favorite — the state that handed him a comeback win in February after a loss in the Iowa caucuses. Since Mr. Lewandowski’s departure, Mr. Trump has tried to make a sustained case to anti-trade voters who backed him as well as Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic race, tossing aside decades of Republican deference to trade agreements and the business community.

National Polling Average

June 30, 2016

Hillary Clinton


Donald J. Trump


See more detail and swing state polling »

Throughout the event on Thursday, Mr. Trump tossed off a list of numbers and facts about the manufacturing losses in New Hampshire, another departure from his approach when Mr. Lewandowski managed the campaign.

Mr. Trump seemed mostly at ease with the new stage of his campaign. He put the blame for the budget deficit squarely on Bill and Hillary Clinton, faulting the North American Free Trade Act of 1994 for jobs leaving the country.

“It’s incredible, when you take a look at the devastation that took place in New York and Pennsylvania and Connecticut,” Mr. Trump said, “devastation caused mostly by Nafta.”

But a spokesman for Osram Sylvania told The Associated Press that the plant closing was unrelated to Nafta or any other trade deals.

Mr. Trump also predicted an uptick in the price of goods with more limited trade, but suggested that was a compromise for keeping jobs.

Many in the crowd were wilting in their gray plastic folding chairs by the time he turned to questions. One man, Warren Goddard of Portsmouth, asked two — one pressing Mr. Trump on abortion, which Mr. Goddard called “murder,” and another that diminished Israel.

“We are going to protect Israel 100 percent,” Mr. Trump replied, calling that question “nasty.” He declined to use the word “abortion,” saying only, “As to No. 1, we all — we’re with you.”

Mr. Trump, whose aides have tried to prod him toward a clarification of his proposed ban on Muslim immigrants, told a woman who asked about using veterans to replace ethnic Transportation Security Administration workers wearing “heebeejabbies,” an apparent reference to Muslim women’s scarves, that he was “looking at that. We’re looking at a lot of things.”

And as he wrapped up, the candidate offered a reminder of how challenging he can be for his handlers. Shoving aside the notes he had been using, Mr. Trump said: “I don’t really need those notes, because I don’t need notes. Aren’t I lucky?”

“Nice to have that ability, isn’t it?” he said. “It’s a good ability to have.”

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr.

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