MOBILE, Ala. - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump wrapped up his post-election “thank you” tour on Saturday with celebratory geysers from water cannons, greetings from hoop-skirted Southern belles and some gloating over the TV newscasters who had expected him to lose.
In the last in a series of rallies Trump has staged during the past three weeks - mainly in battleground states that gave him the margin of victory in the Nov. 8 election - Trump came back to where it all began for his improbable presidential campaign.
It was in Mobile, Alabama, last year where Trump, a real estate magnate and reality television star with no previous political experience, drew a huge crowd that gave notice to his rivals that he was a threat for the Republican presidential nomination.
When his plane landed at the Mobile airport on Saturday, it taxied beneath blasts from two water cannon trucks. Stepping off the plane, a half dozen young women wearing Old South hoop skirts in a panoply of pastel colors were on hand to greet him.
Speaking at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, where there was a steady drizzle that he said would ruin his suit, Trump relived his tense election night when he went from big underdog to eking out a victory over heavily favored Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Faced with predictions that he would lose, Trump said he told his wife, Melania, that he was at peace with his campaign because he had worked so hard.
“I went to my wife and I said, ‘You know what, I don’t feel badly about this,’” Trump said.
Trump said the faces of the newscasters seemed to sink as his fortunes improved, part of his running diatribe against the U.S. mainstream news media that he claims is stacked against him.
“They got paid a lot of money,” Trump said of television commentators. “They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, folks.”
Trump, who will be sworn into office on Jan. 20, took swings at a few other favorite targets from his campaign: corporations that outsource jobs, Islamic State militants, drug dealers, illegal immigrants, and the political culture in Washington.
But he pulled his punches when it came to first lady Michelle Obama, who in excerpts from an interview with Oprah Winfrey set to air on CBS on Monday, said: “We feel the difference now. See, now, we’re feeling what not having hope feels like.”
“I honestly believe she meant that statement in a different way than it came out,” Trump said.
Trump lost the popular vote by more than 2.5 million votes but still won 306 votes in the Electoral College, plenty more than the 270 required to win.
With some Democrats now saying the Electoral College should be abandoned and that the presidential election should be decided by the popular vote, Trump said he’s happy with the system the way it is now.
“I never appreciated it until now, how genius it was,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by Paul Simao)