In an extended interview with TIME magazine published on Thursday, Donald Trump expressed a desire to return to the incendiary rhetoric he was known for in the primaries. The interview, which took place on Tuesday, touched on Trump’s diving poll numbers, Reince Priebus’ waning loyalty, Russia and their actions in the Ukraine and Crimea, and campaign messaging.
Noting that Trump’s poll numbers show him “down six, seven, eight points nationally and in swing states,” TIME correspondents Zeke Miller, Phil Elliot, and Alex Altman asked Trump, “You won the primary, but the general election is obviously a very different electorate. What do you have to do differently?” The business mogul replied:
“Well, I’m running it differently than I did the primaries. I am listening to so-called experts to ease up the rhetoric, and so far, I’m liking the way I ran in the primaries better. I got more votes than anybody in the history of the primaries, I got 14 million votes and won most of the states. But I’m now listening to people that are telling me to be easier, to be nicer, be softer. That’s OK, and I’m doing that. Personally, I don’t know if that’s what the country wants. When we’re having heads chopped off in the Middle East, when things are happening that have never happened before in terms of the atrocities, in terms of giving $400 million in cash and all other things, I think maybe they want tougher rhetoric. They would like me to be a little bit different than I was in the primaries. And in the primaries, I broke the all-time record for votes.”
The reporters asked whether he intended to revert back to primary-style campaigning. “I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with anybody,” Trump said. “I think I may do better the other way. They would like to see it be a little bit different, a little more modified. I don’t like to modify. But that’s what I’ve done. We’ll see where it takes me.”
Mere hours after this interview, the Republican presidential nominee delivered a speech in Wilmington, North Carolina, that seemed to imply that “Second Amendment people” should assassinate either President Hillary Clinton or her Supreme Court appointees. This timing could be no mere coincidence, but it’s hard to tell with Trump.