Real-estate mogul Donald Trump faced a battery of reporters’ questions Tuesday night about his loss in the Iowa caucuses the day before.
He was upset by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in Iowa despite a series polls showing him pulling ahead of the senator. In his concession speech that day, Trump painted his second-place showing as better than expected compared to where he was when he launched his campaign last summer.
Trump repeated that framing during a press conference before his Tuesday rally in Milford, New Hampshire. Even though he campaigned furiously in the state ahead of the caucuses, Trump contrasted his Iowa showing to rivals who spent far more money there.
“I ended up coming in second,” he told reporters. “Didn’t devote tremendous time to it. Didn’t devote tremendous money to it. In fact — I guess in terms of money per vote — I’m about at the bottom, meaning the most efficient. I came in second. I came in a strong second.”
Trump also suggested that one unnamed poll — perhaps widely respected The Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics survey, which found him five points ahead of Cruz — had inflated expectations that he would win in the state.
“Some of the press said I did fantastically well,” Trump told reporters. “Some of the press doesn’t want to give it credit. I think that we did very well. I didn’t expect to do so well. I guess what did happen is one poll came out that said I’m four or five points ahead and that maybe built up a false expectation for some people.”
This was a messaging shift for Trump on the poll: He had for months touted polls showing him ahead in Iowa, and criticised The Register’s survey as unreliable when it showed him behind.
Trump also admitted that his decision to skip the Fox News debate just days before the Iowa caucuses may have hurt him among some Iowa caucus-goers. However, he said he would have done it all over again because he raised $6 million on behalf of veterans instead of going to the debate.
One reporter pressed Trump on whether his Iowa loss had damaged his brand, which is famously associated with the concept of winning.
But Trump insisted he did quite well in Iowa, and accused the media of hypocrisy by going out of its way to tout Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Florida) stronger-than-expected showing. Rubio finished just behind Trump and tied him in delegates obtained from the results.
“If you look at the second place: People didn’t talk about my second place — they didn’t talk about it as positively as they should have. And yet with Marco, who was more than 2,000 votes behind me — that’s a lot of votes by the way — they said, ‘Oh, he’s surging, he’s surging,'” he recalled.
Trump, asked again if his brand took a hit, replied: “I think my brand’s doing great.”
He repeated many of the same arguments about his second-place Iowa finish at his subsequent rally in Milford. The mogul repeatedly bashed the media for hyping Rubio despite the fact that the Florida senator came in third place.
“These people are the most dishonest people ever. Ever!” Trump exclaimed. “The worst people ever! The worst. The worst,” he added.
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