It was a day after he told a Republican debate audience that he
did not want to leave poor people “dying in the streets,” and won
praise by some pundits for delivering a restrained performance in
which he largely avoided skewering his rivals.
It is not as if Trump, notorious for his inflammatory,
demolition-derby style, has suddenly gone soft. At the same event in
Plymouth, he reaffirmed his support for reviving the waterboarding
of terrorism suspects and, if necessary, doing “much worse.” He
mocked “poor Jeb Bush” and talked about the “stupid people” running
But the past week has revealed a mellower Trump who seems less
interested in slashing and burning his way to his party's nomination
for the Nov. 8 election and more willing to view his competitors
His campaign has been working to moderate his image, showing another
side of the boastful billionaire businessman whose candidacy has
alarmed the Republican establishment and been marked by calls for
the deportation of illegal immigrants and temporarily banning
Muslims from entering the United States.
The effort began in earnest in Iowa, when Trump brought in an
evangelical leader as a character witness, used his children as
surrogates and stood on stage with his wife, Melania, who has been
rarely seen on the campaign trail.
He told Reuters in Iowa he was nervous about the result of the
caucuses, where he ended up second to Ted Cruz, the U.S. senator
from Texas, in the first of the state-by-state nominating contests.
Ahead of New Hampshire's pivotal primary on Tuesday in which Trump
leads in opinion polls, he has shared painful personal stories,
stopped at diners to shake hands with patrons, and tried sending the
message that despite his massive wealth and brash manner, he is a
Trump even admitted on CNN on Sunday that Saturday’s debate was “a
lot of pressure.”
“He’s much more of an ordinary guy than (voters) would ever expect,”
Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., said at a campaign stop in Tipton,
New Hampshire. “He’s a down-to-earth guy.”
New Hampshire voters have rewarded candidates for emotional
directness before. In 1992, they gave Democrat Bill Clinton’s
flagging campaign new life when he went on television with his wife,
Hillary, amid denied having an extramarital affair.
Sixteen years later, they handed Hillary Clinton a much-needed win
after she broke down at an event and cried. The blunt-spoken
Republican John McCain won the state's primary twice, in 2000 and
Despite leading in polls in several early voting states, Trump could
use some image enhancement. National polls almost uniformly show
that more than 50 percent of Americans view him unfavorably.
[to top of second column]
During his last weekend in Iowa, Trump abandoned his usual campaign
format in which he stands a podium and addresses the crowd in favor
of a sit-down with Jerry Falwell Jr., son of the late evangelical
activist, in which Trump answered his questions with little bombast.
Falwell vouched for Trump’s generosity, telling of a couple who
helped Trump after his limousine broke down in rural New York and
how he in turn paid off their mortgage.
At those events, Trump made a show of presenting a giant fake check,
sweepstakes-style, to groups that aid disabled veterans.
“I watch all these candidates,” he said of his rivals. “I’m nicer
than all of them.”
In New Hampshire, Trump has opened up about the loss of his older
brother to alcoholism in 1981.
“My brother Fred was a great guy. I mean, he had everything,” Trump
said. “The most handsome guy. And then he got hooked — and there was
nothing, there was nothing we could do about it.”
Trump picked up that thread on Sunday in Plymouth, saying: “We’re
going to take the people who are badly addicted. We’re going to work
to make them better.”
Trump’s motorcade stopped earlier at a diner in Manchester, where he
greeted star-struck patrons, drank hot chocolate and ordered eggs
During his appearance in Plymouth, he barely mentioned his
competitors and did not mention building a wall along the border
with Mexico until someone in the crowd shouted it out.
He also resisted taking aim at Marco Rubio, the U.S. senator from
Florida, whose faltering performance at Saturday's debate seemed
tailor-made for the back of Trump’s hand.
Instead, Trump told the audience: “I love you folks. You’re amazing
"On Tuesday, go out and vote,” he said, adding with a grin: “If
you’re not going to vote for me, do not vote.”
(Additional reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Caren Bohan and
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.