ATKINSON, NH – People lined up at Atkinson Country Club before 5 a.m. to see the show that is Donald Trump for President: Apprentice Edition. Most were there for a pep rally. But I was actually invited to sit in on the Town Hall Meeting broadcast on Monday’s Today Show, from 8 a.m. to just a little after 9 a.m.
Following the Trump ballroom pep rally at 7 a.m., Today Show host Matt Lauer escorted Trump into another room filled with 125 registered New Hampshire voters for their Pancakes and Politics Town Hall, which began just past 8 a.m.
As I kind of suspected, Trump is much more affable and less of a blowhard when the camera is off and he is just talking with people. I sat about 20 feet from the stage and got to hear all the small talk he had with interviewer Lauer.
Having never met Lauer, I will say that he could not have been nicer and was very available for conversation and taking selfies when he was between segments. Off air, he shared the story of being at Logan Airport in 1978 when Bucky Dent hit that homerun against the Red Sox in the American League East tie-breaker game with the Yankees. He reflexively cheered, then realized he was getting dirty looks from shocked groups of Boston fans watching as World Series hopes vaporized with one swing of the bat.
The interview questions from both Lauer and selected audience members covered the expected topics, like immigration (he’s still planning on building a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border), misconceptions about him, opponent Ben Carson pulling ahead in some Iowa polls, etc. An audience member made me laugh when he asked Trump about dealing with world leaders that he may disagree with by saying, “You can’t fire them.” Trump promised he knew how to deal with international leaders.
An ironic and funny moment occurred right after his immigration rant. A Saint Anselm College student told Trump after the show she was headed back to class for her 10 a.m. Spanish class.
From an insider’s view: I expected those asking questions would be carefully chosen. They were. Last week, people like me were asked to submit a serious and not-so-serious question to ask the candidate. Turns out, if you were selected, in some cases, NBC gave you their question to ask and yours was tossed aside. Expect that to be the case if you attend town halls that will be on national TV. Yes, everything is choreographed, but nevertheless, fun to watch.
We also learned that, Trump has eaten at McDonald’s, has worn jeans and considers it a luxury to just jump in a car and drive by himself. He told us he did that about a week ago.
Trump even agreed to do an extra unscheduled segment even though his staff was trying to rush him away for the next event. “Yes, c’mon Corey,” he shouted across the room to someone who was presumable one of his handlers.
Trump signed things, posed for pictures and shook hands as he left. No one got fired and he made fun of his hair a couple of times. “It may not be pretty, but it’s mine.”
Mike Morin is a longtime radio broadcaster and author, and produces a weekly podcast series, “Reset: 40 is the New Happy,” for Manchester Ink Link.
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