For the first 11 minutes of his rally here on Wednesday, Donald Trump sounded like the candidate his campaign advisers and top Republican Party officials wish he would be more often.
After quickly dispatching reports of disarray within his campaign by vowing his organization has “never been so well united,” the Republican nominee turned to slamming President Barack Obama and the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, over a report that the US shipped $400 million to Iran at about the same time Iran released four American prisoners.
“America’s been humiliated in so many different ways,” proclaimed Trump, who rallied his supporters as usual without a teleprompter, although he did appear to glance at notes on his podium.
For several minutes more, he stayed on message, turning the report about the cash flight to Iran into a broader condemnation of Obama and Clinton’s foreign policies — from Clinton’s advocacy for the military intervention in Libya to the dangers of the nuclear deal with Iran.
And then, Trump went back to being Trump — the same candidate who in recent days has set off a panic in his party’s highest ranks after he repeatedly knocked himself off message by unceremoniously escalating a feud with the family of a deceased Muslim-American soldier and refusing to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan, the top-ranking elected Republican in Washington.
For the remaining 40 minutes, Trump served up the red meat and comic indignation that his rowdy supporters expected after waiting several hours in the hot Florida sun.
He dredged up everything from his contentious primary battle in Florida to his claim that Muslims danced in the streets of New Jersey after the 9/11 attacks to the controversial comments he made about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly nearly a year earlier.
“I meant her nose or her ears or her mouth. But these people were perverted and they think it’s another location,” Trump said as he launched into another exercise in lambasting the press.
He even joked about an attack ad that used footage of him playing golf: “At least my swing looked good. Thank you, Hillary,” Trump said.
Trump’s rally Wednesday came as sources told CNN that Trump’s latest antics regarding Ryan and the Khan family had immensely frustrated RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and several of Trump’s top advisers within his campaign.
Trump right at the top of the rally dismissed any concerns that his campaign might be unraveling.
“I just want to tell you the campaign is doing really well. It’s never been so well united,” Trump said. “We started on June 16. I would say right now it’s the best in terms of being united that it’s been since we began. We’re doing incredibly well.”
But while Trump quickly dove off message, the Republican nominee neither relitigated his feud with the Khans nor did he hint at his reluctance to endorse Ryan and other congressional Republicans.
And while he quickly returned to his freewheeling, scattershot style on the stump, Trump on Wednesday did not stoke new controversy.