Donald Trump speaks with members of the media during a news conference on Feb. 2, 2016, in Milford, N.H.(Photo: Matt Rourke, AP)
MILFORD, N.H. — Finishing second? It's not so bad,
Donald Trump told a cheering rally in New Hampshire less than 24 hours after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz defeated him in the Iowa caucuses.
"I think we did really well, we did really well," Trump declared Tuesday night in his first public appearance since he failed to meet expectations that he would win the opening Iowa caucuses. He said his decision to skip the final Iowa debate in a dispute with Fox News might have cost him some support, but he cast it as an act of philanthropy because he hosted instead a fundraiser to help U.S. military vets.
"I'll take the $6 million for the vets" over a first-place finish, he declared.
Trump delivered an energetic rambling address to an enthusiastic crowd of thousands of people in a sports facility on a cold winter night, a sharp contrast to the town-hall meetings characteristic of New Hampshire in which citizens quiz candidates.
He was introduced by former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown, who endorsed Trump as "an agent of change" who could "shake up the status quo in Washington."
Trump accused the news media of misrepresenting his Iowa finish, disputing the idea that the third-place finish by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was somehow noteworthy.
"He's a professional politician; he comes in third; I come in second." He mocked the headlines that he said followed. "Trump: 'No good.' Rubio: 'Incredible night!' "
In a news conference before the rally, Trump took a determinedly low-key tone. He said he couldn't think of any mistakes his campaign had made in Iowa or any lessons he had learned there. He depicted his finish as remarkably good given his low standing when he launched his campaign. Late Iowa polls that showed him with a lead "maybe built a false expectation."
New Hampshire is likely to be a friendlier landscape, he said. "I think it fits me better, probably suits me better."
Would he be OK with finished second in New Hampshire, too?
"Finishing second wouldn't be the worst thing in the world," he said. Even so, he allowed, "I'd like to finish first."