(ABC News)–Just days before the second presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Republican nominee ventured to New Hampshire for a test run of sorts. He hosted an invitation-only town hall in Sandown.
Though the idea of a town hall, just days but the second presidential debate, had all the trappings of debate prep, Trump insisted that it was not.
“And by the way they were saying, this is practice for Sunday, this isn’t practice, this has nothing to do with Sunday, we are just here, because we just wanted to be here,” he said. “And you know, Hillary, frankly, they talk about debate prep, this is not debate prep, she’s resting. She’s resting. And I want to be with the American people, I want to be with the people from New Hampshire, and she wants to rest.”
Trump, while discussing his recent trip to Nevada, took time to share with the crowd at the Sandown Town Hall what he learned about Hispanic-Americans.
“I just got back from Las Vegas, where we gave a tremendous, I mean we had a tremendous crowd of people, lot of Hispanics, Latinos they like to be called in that area, you know that, right? Hispanics and Latinos.”
But, he eventually pivoted back to the debate, answering a questioner who asked if Trump held back during the first debate.
“Yeah, I did hold back, I thought it was just inappropriate to say what I was really thinking I would say. And I held back, I think for- I think for a good reason, I think for a good reason. I much rather have it be on policy. And I didn’t like getting into the– into the gutter and so I did hold back.”
In advance of Sunday’s debate, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said on “Good Morning America” today that Trump has been watching tapes of his last matchup with Clinton as part of his debate prep.
“Well, he learned from those tapes that he was trying to answer the questions as they were asked. Mrs. Clinton was there really trying to get out the five or six zingers she had rehearsed for a number of days. So this time, I think that Donald Trump, in a town hall format, it’s one he’s very comfortable,” she said.
Other aides tell ABC News that the format will allow Trump to visually focus on the audience rather than home in on Clinton and constantly feel the need to have the last word.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — who, as a presidential candidate, was known for his virtual omnipresence at New Hampshire town halls — has been increasingly involved in Trump’s debate practice and was present at Thursday’s town hall.
“Gov. Christie is helpful because he’s done more than 130 town halls,” said Conway.
After the debate with Clinton, several senior Trump staffers were frustrated with his inability to execute on the debate stage. One of them told ABC News that Trump “lost his nerve.” Preparation for this debate has included rounds of rapid-fire questions and attempts to utilize more one-line attacks.
But tonight, when Trump said this was not debate prep, he seemed to be right. Supporters were pre-selected and virtually all were Trump supporters who asked friendly questions.
Watch FULL LIVE COVERAGE of the second presidential debate, co-moderated by ABC News’ Martha Raddatz, at 9 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 9. Coverage and analysis of the debate will begin on ABCNews.com/Live at 7 p.m. ET.
ABC News’ John Santucci contributed to this report.