CHARLESTON, W.Va. – For his first act as the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump strode on stage, extended his arms and conducted the crowd through a chorus of “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”
“We need to put our miners back to work!” he shouted Thursday to the crowd of more than 12,000 in the sunken, cavernous concrete Civic Center here. Hundreds of miners invited by the campaign to sit behind his podium rose in an extended standing ovation.
What followed, in his first campaign event as the last candidate standing in the Republican nomination process, was a Trump rally evolving for the general election, still retaining the energetic, fervent and free-flowing style that endeared him to voters and vaulted him to victory.
Gone was “lyin’ Ted,” but replaced in equal vitriol with “crooked Hillary.” Mr. Trump spent extended riffs going after Hillary Clinton, repeatedly referencing her comments about wanting to put the coal industry out of business (her campaign says she misspoke). He called the Clinton Foundation “disgusting,” referred to the investigation into her emails as secretary of state and Bill Clinton’s role in creating the North American Free Trade Agreement, and made a thinly veiled joke about Mr. Clinton’s infidelities.
“The Clinton administration, of which Hillary was definitely a part,”
Mr. Trump said, continuing, “she was a part of almost everything. Almost, I say, not everything. Almost.”
He paused for a beat, as the crowd grew into a mix of laughter and cheers.
— Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) May 6, 2016
“Terrible,” Mr. Trump said, a wry joking tone in his voice. “I didn’t think the people of West Virginia thought about that. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Terrible, terrible people.”
Also gone were his complaints about the system being rigged against his candidacy, although for that he gave an honest answer. “I used to say it’s a rigged system, but now I don’t say it anymore because I won,” he said. “I don’t care.”
And gone were the repeated boasts of being self-funding.
“By the way, for the general election, I’m going to help raise money for the party,” he said.
Notably, he made no reference of the speaker of the House, Paul D. Ryan, who hours before the event said he was “not ready” to endorse Mr. Trump.
But over all, the candidate was in good spirits, relishing his victory and buoyed by the feverish crowd, which shrieked its support at every applause break in his speech.
Mr. Trump even donned a hard hat after receiving the endorsement of the West Virginia Coal Association, miming using a pick and shovel, before taking it off and risking his carefully crafted hair.
“You know you’re not allowed to hair spray anymore because it affects the ozone,” he said.
He added, in an allusion perhaps to his campaign’s overall slogan: “Hair spray’s not like it used to be. It used to be real good.”