Manchester, New Hampshire (CNN)Donald Trump’s final day of campaigning in New Hampshire before the state’s first-in-the-nation primary marked a notable departure from the candidate’s convention-defying campaign.
He fielded voters’ questions during three intimate town hall forums on Monday. And in a rally that night, Trump veered clear of controversial, headline-grabbing territory.
That is, until the last five minutes, when he repeated the vulgar word a woman in the audience shouted out to refer to Sen. Ted Cruz, one of Trump’s rivals for the Republican presidential nomination.
And then, moments later, Trump joked about the hazardous driving conditions on New Hampshire’s snow-covered roads.
“I want to finish up because you got a bad evening out there and you have to drive. You have to do me a favor. I don’t really care if you get hurt or not, but I want you to last until tomorrow, OK?” Trump said. “If you’re going to get hurt, and if you’re going to drive like a maniac, do it tomorrow after you vote. And I promise I will come and visit you in the hospital. I promise. No, I’m only kidding, I want you to be careful.”
But earlier in the day, the Republican presidential candidate — who led competitors by double-digits in New Hampshire polling — spent time courting voters in more traditional Granite State settings.
Instead of raucous rallies, Trump held three gatherings with about a couple hundred voters at each stop.
Standing in the center of a room, Trump offered brief remarks before taking questions from the voters seated in neat rows that wrapped around him.
He listened to a man named Steve share a story about losing his 19-year-old son to a drug overdose.
“The love of your son is incredible,” Trump said after listening to the man, adding that he would invite him to the White House if he becomes president.
“I can learn much more from Steve than I can from these consultants that get paid millions of dollars,” he said.
And when he faced a question critical of his ardent opposition to accepting Syrian refugees in the U.S., Trump struck an empathetic tone.
“I know what you’re doing and I fully understand it. And we all have a heart,” Trump said. “I understand where you’re coming from, but there is a second view to that.”
Most notably, Trump seemed comfortable. He walked from one side of his voter-encircled pen to the other, moving closer to voters as they asked their questions. And when he was close enough, Trump several times handed his microphone to attendees rather than wait for a staffer to deliver one.
Bill Simmons, who attended Trump’s Salem town hall, asked Trump about how he would not only keep his newborn granddaughter safe, but ensure she would receive equal pay as a working adult.
“No. 1, she will be so safe,” Trump said.
But after touting his own ability to defeat terrorist threats and slamming stupid government leaders, Trump never got to No. 2.
Asked by a 13-year-old boy about the national debt, Trump simply said, “We’re going to get the debt down, we’re going to make our country strong, we’re going to do some great things.”
“Don’t worry about it. Just go to school, get a good education. You’ll be happy when you graduate. OK? Good,” said Trump, offering his trademark reassurance linked to his campaign them of “making America great again,” though offering few details.
The intimate settings gave Trump a chance to connect with voters more directly and showcased his ability to moderate his tone; something with the potential to reassure voters on the fence about his brash style.