MILFORD, N.H. – Donald Trump shrugged off a second place finish in Iowa, suggesting Tuesday that New Hampshire – which holds the nation’s first primary on Feb. 9 – “fits me better.”
Trump’s rivals had sensed weakness in the brash billionaire who promises voters endless wins, but Trump exuded calm confidence Tuesday night at a press conference ahead of a rally here, insisting he hadn’t invested “tremendous” time or money in Iowa.
“We had 17 candidates,” he said, adding at one point: “I’ve been in politics for all of six months.”
Still, Trump sought to lower expectations for a first-place finish in New Hampshire, even as he pledged to add more retail events in the state. He said he’d “love to finish first,” but it wouldn’t be “horrible” if he didn’t.
“I’m not humiliated,” Trump later told the crowd jammed into a cavernous athletic club, some watching from an overflow room. He called the press the “worst people ever” for suggesting that Marco Rubio – who finished third – had a better night than him.
Trump, Rubio, the rest of the Republican field and the Democratic presidential contenders arrived in New Hampshire – which votes in less than a week – hours after voters in Iowa left their precinct caucuses.
Trump picked up the endorsement Tuesday of former Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who lost a New Hampshire Senate campaign in 2014. Brown, who introduced Trump at the rally, said he believes only Trump could be a “change agent” to get Washington working.
Ted Cruz pulled out a narrow win in Iowa over Trump, with Rubio delivering a strong third-place finish. Rubio also picked up a coveted endorsement Tuesday. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said Republicans “have one shot in 2016 to beat Hillary Clinton and that shot is Marco Rubio.”
The Florida senator’s solid showing increases pressure on other establishment Republicans to deliver victories here or be forced to rally around Rubio’s candidacy in an effort to thwart Cruz and Trump – who have earned the enmity of party stalwarts.
A New Hampshire win by Trump, who is leading here, or Cruz, who is further back and not considered a natural fit for the state but could pick up steam with his Iowa surprise, could propel them to victories in South Carolina, Nevada and much of the South.
Cruz, who picked up the endorsement of Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., held a town hall meeting at a church before departing for a rally in South Carolina. But he plans to return to New Hampshire on Wednesday and spend the week up to the primary here.
The Republicans will debate for the eighth time Saturday.
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