After a six-month hiatus from the campaign trail, listening to a Donald Trump speech, and the audience reactions to it, is a powerful experience. Although his message hasn't changed much, Trump's skill as a candidate and his ability to keep the audience engaged have significantly improved.
The address he delivered in Laconia, New Hampshire, on Sept. 15 was perhaps the 12th I have attended this year. Journalists who have been following him throughout the campaign have probably heard him hundreds of times, day after day. The long and continuous acquaintance makes it harder to notice any changes. I last heard Trump in March, at a golf club he owns in Florida, and the difference between now and then was striking.
"This was one of the worst political speeches I have heard," I wrote after one of his appearances in Iowa in January. "Trump rambled for more than an hour without completing a sentence. He went off on unexpected tangents." Members of the audience began milling about, talking to one another, leaving early. Trump's voice grated, changed pitch, went from a whine to a growl when there was no need for it.