BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — A confident Donald Trump told supporters on Saturday that he’s not changing his pitch to voters, a day after his chief adviser assured Republican officials their party’s front-runner would show more restraint while campaigning.
“You know, being presidential’s easy — much easier than what I have to do,” he told thousands at a rally in Bridgeport, Connecticut. “Here, I have to rant and rave. I have to keep you people going. Otherwise you’re going to fall asleep on me, right?”
Trump declared to the crowd that he has no intention of reversing any of his provocative policy plans, including building a wall along the length of the Southern border.
“Everything I say I’m going to do, folks, I’ll do,” he said.
Trump’s new chief adviser, Paul Manafort, met Thursday with top Republican officials and told them his candidate, known for his over-the-top persona and brashness, has been “projecting an image” and that “the part that he’s been playing is now evolving.”
Democrat Hillary Clinton, speaking at a rally in Central Falls, Rhode Island, warned voters that Trump is attempting to modify his positions as he seeks to appeal to a broader audience beyond the Republican primaries.
“Trump keeps saying things like, ‘You know, I didn’t really mean it. It was all part of my reality TV show. Running for president will be on your screen,’” Clinton said. “Well, if we buy that, shame on us.”
Clinton said Trump wants to “go after every one of the rights we have.” She also ripped into Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s ability to conduct foreign policy, telling the rally inside a steamy high school basketball gym, “What they say about the world is not only offensive, it’s dangerous.”
At a rally in Waterbury, Connecticut, earlier Saturday, Trump joked about how it’s easy to be presidential, making a series of faux somber faces. But he said told the crowd he can be serious and policy-minded when he has to be.
“When I’m out here talking to you people, I’ve got to be different,” Trump said.
The Republican and Democratic front-runners and their rivals campaigned Saturday across the quintet of Northeastern states holding primaries on Tuesday: Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island and Connecticut. For the Republicans, in particular, the stakes are high as Trump looks to sweep the remaining contests and reach the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Cruz and John Kasich look to thwart Trump’s efforts and force the race into a contested convention.
Trump revived his “birther” criticism of Cruz, which he has previously used to suggest the Texas senator is ineligible to run for president because he was born in Canada. Cruz’s mother is an American citizen, and most experts say that Cruz is eligible.
“Rafael! Straight out of the hills of Canada!” Trump declared, referring to Cruz by his given name.
Cruz addressed around 1,000 supporters in a high school outside Pittsburgh, and though the reception was raucous, the crowd didn’t know how to react to the Texas senator’s opening: “Let me say something that is profoundly painful for someone who grew up as a fan of the Houston Oilers. God bless the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
Cruz also rebuked Trump’s recent suggestions that building separate transgender bathrooms is “discriminatory” and costly, saying that it should be “the choice of the given location, of the given local government to allow that, to provide for that.”
Cruz said Tuesday “is going to be a pivotal day,” but he also traveled Saturday to Indiana, which doesn’t vote until next month. Trump is thought to be favored in Pennsylvania, while Cruz’s deep evangelical roots could give him a boost in Indiana. He spoke to nearly 1,000 people at the Boone County Fairgrounds in Lebanon, Indiana, promising to protect religious liberty if he were in office.
Clinton campaigned in Connecticut before her visit to Rhode Island. At a round-table event in New Haven with working families, she discussed ways to raise wages, promote early childhood education and reduce the pay gap between men and women.
“Equal pay — we shouldn’t be talking about it in 2016. It is almost embarrassing,” she said.
Workers describe their struggles with employers, home foreclosure and low wages. Clinton said it was “way past time that we have a raise in the nationwide minimum wage” of $7.25 an hour and said the nation should support cities and states like New York and California “that are willing to put a higher floor under low-wage workers.”
Clinton’s rival, Bernie Sanders, spoke to a boisterous crowd of mostly young people in Baltimore and railed against big banks and highlighted his differences with Clinton on everything from the minimum wage to free-trade agreements.
Sanders hammered at “disastrous trade policies,” describing them as not a sexy issue but an important issue, saying that “we are seeing corporation after corporation shut down in the United States throw millions of workers out in the street, people who are earning a living wage.”
In an interview for NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sanders said he’s trailing Clinton because “poor people don’t vote.” He added: “That’s just a fact. That’s a sad reality of American society. And that’s what we have to transform.”
Associated Press writers Ken Thomas in New Haven, Connecticut; Susan Haigh in Waterbury, Connecticut; Aric Chokey in Lebanon, Indiana; and Vivian Salama in Washington contributed to this report.
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