Donald Trump swerved back on script Tuesday, showing flashes of a cohesive closing argument in the final stage of a presidential campaign that is tightening with six days left.
Joined here by his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and a small group of law
makers, Trump delivered an uncharacteristically disciplined speech calling again for the eradication of the Affordable Care Act and a renegotiation of a sweeping trade pact he cast as a job killer - championing causes popular among many Republicans in Rust Belt states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, where he is urgently trying to expand the map against Hillary Clinton.
The Democratic nominee, who is trying to move past the FBI's renewed scrutiny of her email practices and sustain her advantage in key swing states, sought to redirect attention on Tuesday to Trump's treatment of women. Former Miss Universe Alicia Machado delivered introductory remarks at a Clinton rally in Dade City, Florida, speaking about Trump's "cruel" comments about her weight when she held the crown. Clinton cited allegations from a dozen women that Trump had kissed or groped them without permission.
Both sides also added fuel to the expensive war they are waging on the airwaves. The Clinton campaign plans to begin airing its first television ads of the general election in Michigan and New Mexico - where Trump is making a late push this week - and will return to the airwaves in Virginia and Colorado after a months-long hiatus, a campaign official said. The Trump campaign announced it was investing $25 million in advertising across 13 states. But it did not say how much would go to each location.
Here in Pennsylvania, Trump tried to strike a more uplifting note than usual, a move that seemed geared to centrist voters put off by his dark rhetoric. "If we unlock the potential of this country and its incredible people, no dream is outside of our reach," he said.
But it is unclear whether the speech, which had the accoutrements of a much more traditional campaign event than Trump usually holds, will hail a disciplined push in the last week before Election Day or whether he will return to the rudderless approach that has defined much of his campaign. Just as uncertain is whether it will assuage the concerns of moderate voters at a time when extremists continue to embrace Trump publicly, including an endorsement of Trump by the Ku Klux Klan's official newspaper that grabbed widespread attention Tuesday.
In recent rallies and speeches, Trump has lurched from talking about Clinton's email woes to his unsubstantiated claims of a "rigged" election to his priorities for his first days as president. Along the way, he also reignited old spats and revived criticism of Clinton's health.
Inside a hotel ballroom here before an invite-only crowd, however, Trump offered streamlined policy imperatives for supporting him.
"If we don't repeal and replace Obamacare, we will destroy American health care forever," he said, referring to the Affordable Care Act championed by President Barack Obama.
He also displayed more party unity than usual. Sen. John Barrasso, Wyo., and Reps. Tom Price, Ga., and Andy Harris, Md., all physicians, helped introduce Trump. So did Rep. Renee Ellmers, N.C., who has worked as a registered nurse. Trump, who has been pledging to "drain the swamp" in Washington, referred to them as "distinguished members of Congress." Later in the day, Trump attended a roundtable discussion in Wisconsin with that state's governor, Scott Walker, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.
As the audience in Pennsylvania waited to hear Trump speak, they were treated to light jazz rather than the normal jarring soundtrack at Trump events. Pence, the mild-mannered Indiana governor who has rarely appeared together with his running mate, warmed up the crowd and set the stage for the address.
"We still got time to turn this thing around. Seven days to be exact," Pence said.
Trump promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and expand "school choice." Trump said he swiftly would enlist Congress to help destroy the Affordable Care Act.
"When we win on November 8th and elect a Republican Congress, we will be able to immediately repeal and replace Obamacare. Have to do it. I will ask Congress to convene a special session so we can repeal and replace," Trump said.
There would be no need for a "special session" on Capitol Hill, however: The current Congress will reconvene soon after the Nov. 8 election, while the new Congress will gavel in before Inauguration Day.
In Dade City, Machado grew emotional while speaking about Trump's disparaging remarks about her gaining weight in the 1990s, saying that "it is clear he does not respect women. ... He thinks he can do whatever he wants and get away with it." Machado added that for years afterward she fought eating disorders.
Clinton spoke at length about the allegations of unwanted sexual advances against Trump and said he has revealed himself to have little respect for women by "demeaning, degrading, insulting and assaulting" them. Trump has denied the women's allegations and has suggested that some were not attractive enough to draw his interest.
"Look at what he does. He calls women ugly, disgusting, nasty, all the time," Clinton told the crowd. "He calls women pigs, rates bodies on a scale from one to 10."
Obama campaigned for Clinton on Tuesday in Ohio - part of an all-hands-on-deck roster of high-profile surrogates deployed to several battleground states that includes Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vt., and former president Bill Clinton. "I stand where I've stood all fall and all summer. In fact, I already voted here in Janesville for our nominee last week in early voting," Ryan said on Fox News Channel from his home town. "We need to support our entire Republican ticket."
"The only thing this office does is it amplifies who you are. It magnifies who you are," Obama said in Columbus. "If you disrespected women before you were elected, you will disrespect women once you're president."
House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who has had an uneasy relationship with Trump throughout the campaign, said in a television interview Tuesday that he had voted for Trump but said he continues to have no plans to campaign for him.
Trump's more polished approach in his speech was a departure from what seems at times like randomness in his public remarks lately.
During two rallies on Monday in Michigan, Trump mostly focused on promising to return manufacturing jobs. But he mixed in warnings of voter fraud, attacks on Hillary Clinton and random musings on how no one travels to Paris anymore, how Bill O'Reilly is one of the "greatest political pundits today" and his ability to predict the future.
And on Sunday in Greeley, Colorado, Trump blamed the NFL's ratings decline on the campaign and on San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Last week, Trump went off on random tangents during a speech in Charlotte, where he discussed a "new deal for black America," mocking long-vanquished rival Jeb Bush, whose moderate Republican supporters he desperately needs.
Throughout it all, he has injected dire warnings about illegal immigrants killing Americans, Islamic State militants violently killing innocent people and portrayed the country as having only one final chance to get it right.
That track record made what he said - and how he said it - in Pennsylvania unexpected.
"I'm asking you to dream big, to push for bold change and to believe in a movement powered by our love for each other and our love for our country," Trump said.