Donald J. Trump projected confidence on Friday, but also seemed to prepare for at least the possibility of an Election Day loss, as he and Hillary Clinton courted their supporters with competing public events for the first time in more than a week.
Their rallies in swing states came after two days of scripted incivility that sometimes bordered on the surreal, with the third and final presidential debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday at times seeming to mimic a “Saturday Night Live” parody (“You’re the puppet!” Mr. Trump told his rival), and a white-tie gala Thursday evening where Mr. Trump managed to provoke boos and jeers at a charity dinner.
But Friday, just 18 days from the election, seemed to mark at least a momentary return to regular order.
Addressing a rally in Fletcher, N.C., in the more rural western part of the state, Mr. Trump offered a slightly more restrained version of his typically freewheeling speech, largely seeming to hew to his prepared remarks.
Gone were his complaints of a “rigged” and “stolen” election — which have drawncondemnation by Democrats and Republicans alike — and he did not, as he has recently, try to beat back accusations from 10 women who have come forward to accuse him of inappropriate sexual advances.
Instead, Mr. Trump offered an unusually candid, if still self-congratulatory, assessment of his debate performances — “I think the first one was fine, I think we won, easily, the second one, and the third one was our best,” he said — and acknowledged the possibility that he might not end up in the White House, after all.
The Trump campaign has said that Mr. Trump plans to increase his schedule in the final weeks, potentially holding as many as six rallies a day. Mr. Trump explained that he wanted to have no regrets should he lose.
“I don’t know what kind of shape I’m in, but I’ll be happy, and at least I will have known, win, lose or draw — and I’m almost sure, if the people come out, we’re going to win — I will be happy with myself,” he said. “I don’t want to think back, ‘If only I did one more rally, I would have won North Carolina by 500 votes instead of losing it by 200 votes.’”
“I never want to ever look back,” he continued: “I never want to say that about myself. We have to work.”
Mr. Trump’s team increasingly views North Carolina as a state critical to a victory in November, along with states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Mr. Trump’s running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, visited the same town just last week.
But Mr. Trump also showed some trademark flourishes during his rally. He attacked both President Obama and his wife, Michelle, by name, saying they were too focused on campaigning for his Democratic rival. “We have a bunch of babies running our country, folks,” he said. “We have a bunch of losers. They’re losers, they’re babies.”
And later, at a rally in Johnstown, Pa., Mr. Trump took the stage with a renewed vigor (“I just got caught in the rain,” he bellowed, “how does my hair look?”), complaining of a “rigged system” (“Don’t ever forget it,” he said.)
Speaking to the gutted mill town, Mr. Trump cast himself as the champion of Pennsylvania’s working class. “The iron and steels forged in your mills formed the backbone of our nation,” he said, promising to bring prosperity back to the region. You were the leading steal producer in the United States — did you know that?
Seemingly energized by the more raucous Pennsylvania crowd, Mr. Trump ended his rally with a call to victory. “We will win,” he said. “We will shock the world.”
Then, Mr. Trump, who on the eve of a campaign trip to Scotland admitted he did not really understand the nuances of the Brexit vote, ended with an ebullient rallying cry. His win in November, he said, would be “Brexit-Plus.”
With Mr. Trump rallying supporters in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, Mrs. Clinton’s return to the campaign trail after nine days, including a week off to prepare for the final debate, was taking her once again to Ohio, a fiercely contested battleground.
A new poll, by Suffolk University in Boston, of likely Ohio voters shows the presidential race there tied, an improvement for Mrs. Clinton over the recent trend in Ohio.
Mr. Trump had led in Ohio polls recently, as its large bloc of white, working-class voters seemed to be realigning the usually closely fought state to Mr. Trump’s economic populism and America-first message.
Mrs. Clinton’s afternoon rally at a community college in Cleveland, the heart of Democratic strength in Ohio, was meant to encourage early voting. President Obama twice won the state, in large part, because of organizing efforts that turned out early voters. In a troubling sign for Mrs. Clinton, the early-vote numbers this year are not encouraging.
Requests for early ballots are down 22.3 percent in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, compared with the same period in 2012, and they are off 12.7 percent in Franklin County, which includes Columbus, the state capital, according to data compiled by Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who studies voter turnout.