CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Republican Donald Trump returned to the campaign trail for his first rally as his party’s presumptive nominee on Thursday night, delivering a series of searing attacks against likely rival Hillary Clinton and making clear he has no intention of toning down the rhetoric that drove his spectacular rise.
Trump, arriving to John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” betrayed a hint of wistfulness about wrapping up the nomination more quickly than he and his aides had expected. Rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich suddenly ended their campaigns this week, making his visit to West Virginia, which votes May 10, largely symbolic.
“I actually wish the primaries were not over. It’s no fun this way,” he told the crowd of about 13,000 packed into a Charleston stadium.
“I want the primaries to keep going, but everybody’s out. I’m the only one left,” he said.
Trump even went as far as to instruct his supporters not to bother voting in next Tuesday’s primary and focus instead on the race in November.
“You don’t have to vote anymore. Save your vote for the general election, OK?” he told them. “Forget this one, the primary’s gone.”
In his remarks, Trump drilled down on his economic message, vowing to renegotiate trade deals, punish companies for outsourcing jobs and revive the state’s waning coal industry. He mugged for the cameras in a hard hat presented by a local coal association and cracked a joke about his famous hair really being his.
And after months of bragging about largely self-funding his own campaign - a decision that was praised again and again by his supporters - Trump for the first time acknowledged at a rally that he plans to begin actively soliciting contributions.
Trump notably made no mention of the continued, nagging resistance to his candidacy from some elements of his party, including House Speaker Paul Ryan’s announcement earlier Thursday that he’s not ready to throw his support behind the business mogul.
Instead, Trump focused his attention on Clinton, criticizing, in particular, a remark she made in a March saying, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” Clinton said this week she’d made “a misstatement” while campaigning in the state.
Trump, whose team had passed out signs that read, “Trump Digs Coal,” said that, if he’s elected, “We’re going to put the miners back to work.”
“You’re going to be working your asses off,” he told the miners in the crowd.
Trump also blasted the Clinton family’s charitable foundation, to which he has donated, as “a scam.” And he hinted at darker attacks to come, targeting Clinton over the infidelities of her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
During his administration, Trump said, Hillary Clinton “was a part of almost everything - almost - I say, not everything,” Trump said at one point, drawing jeers from some in the crowd.
“Terrible,” he mockingly chastised. “I didn’t think the people of West Virginia thought like that. That’s terrible. You should be ashamed of yourselves!”
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