Donald Trump says his campaign 'has never been stronger' in Des Moines rally

GOP candidate goes on offense against Hillary Clinton

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DES MOINES — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump insisted his 2016 campaign “has never been stronger,” pointing to an exuberant crowd of 3,000 Iowans Friday who cheered his slams on rival Hillary Clinton and chanted support for his get-tough approach for restoring American greatness.

Responding to GOP calls for him to refocus his message on Clinton after recent campaign missteps, Trump peppered his hourlong town hall remarks by calling his Democratic opponent “the queen of corruption” and “a dangerous liar” who he said “lacks the judgment, temperament and moral character” to lead the country for four years on the heels of Barack Obama’s “terrible job” as president.

Read more: Iowans protest "reckless" Trump in Des Moines

“I can tell you this,” Trump told the crowd, “if Hillary Clinton becomes president, you will have terrorism, you will have problems; you will have really, in my opinion, the destruction of this country from within. Believe me.”

Supporters at times chanted “lock her up” and “USA” during Trump’s critique of Clinton’s foreign policy history, her immigration views and her jobs plan while pledging to restore law and order in America, keep out undocumented immigrants and potential terrorist infiltrators, and strengthen the U.S. position in international alliances and trade negotiations.

Trump’s second trip to Iowa is as many weeks came amid reports that his GOP allies have been urging him refocus his campaign message on Clinton after a week of dropping opinion poll numbers, a public spat with the parents of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq and disagreements with some fellow Republicans.

During an interview with the Cedar Rapids Gazette before taking the stage at the Iowa Events Center, Trump said the 2016 general-election race is just in the beginning stages and talk of turmoil and interventions “put out by the mainstream media” has been “ridiculous.”

“The campaign has never been stronger,” Trump told The Gazette.

“I think we’re going to do very well,” he added. “The crowds are tremendous. The enthusiasm is incredible, so I think we’re doing very well.”

Trump said he has “great support” within the Republican Party, but acknowledged “I think they really want to focus on her because she’s a very flawed candidate and people don’t like her.”

He attributed Clinton’s gains in battleground-state polling to the fact that she and supportive groups have been advertising heavily, and he expected to “turn it around” by making personal visits like Friday’s joint appearance with running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence — and building a campaign war chest to launch his own ad campaign.

“Don’t forget she’s spent tremendous amounts, hundreds of millions of dollars as I understand it, on ads and we haven’t spent. We’re collecting a lot of money. We’re getting ready. We picked up $82 million, much of it from small donors over the last four weeks. So I think we’re going to do very well,” he said. “We’re going to do some great ads, but we haven’t advertised yet and she’s spending well over $100 million as I understand it.”

Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Andy McGuire issued a statement drawing a contrast between Trump’s stump speech and Clinton’s campaign of substance that included laying out a five-point plan to build an economy “that works for everyone — not just those at the top” with the largest U.S. investment in job creation since World War II.

“Donald Trump has insulted a gold star family, evaded questions about why he manufactures products overseas, and kicked a mother and her baby out of his rally,” McGuire noted.

“Hillary Clinton is offering real solutions to the issues and problems working families face on a daily basis,” she added. “Donald Trump continues to harness a message of hate that excludes minorities and celebrates intolerance.”

For his part, Trump said he loves coming to Iowa and felt he should have won the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, where he finished second to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz before going on to secure his party’s presidential nomination last month in Cleveland.

“I think we will win it this time,” Trump said during the interview, before later telling the town hall attendees he supports keeping Iowa in its leadoff position for the 2020 election cycle and adding “I hope you can get out on Nov. 8th and vote for Trump.”

Iowans got their first glimpse of Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, since he won the vice presidential nomination — a job he accepted “in a heartbeat” last month. He introduced himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican in that order.”

Pence drew loud cheers when he described Trump as a man who is “distinctly American — one “who never quits, who never backs down, who is a fighter and a winner” and has proved himself to be “a doer in a game usually reserved for talkers.”

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