"I'm so much into this, into New Hampshire, that I just — I don't care about that anymore," Trump said
In addition to speaking with Cooper, Trump also took questions from almost a dozen voters
The day after accusing Ted Cruz of winning the Iowa caucuses unfairly and asking for a rematch in the state, Donald Trump says he’s now over it.
“I’m so much into this, into New Hampshire, that I just — I don’t care about that anymore,” Trump said in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper in Manchester, just five days out from next Tuesday’s primary contest here. “This is the place I’m focused on now.”
These comments, made at Theo’s, a popular local pizza joint that serves up specialty Italian and Greek dishes, were in stark contrast to a tirade of angry tweets Trump sent out the day before, where he charged that the Texas senator had committed “fraud” in Iowa and called for a “new election.”
The controversy started when CNN reported Monday night that Carson would go home to Florida following the Iowa caucuses instead of flying directly to the early voting states New Hampshire and South Carolina. The network added that he planned to stay in the race.
Some Cruz allies shared that news widely on the night of the caucuses, including to Carson supporters, but did not include the part about Carson remaining in the race.
Cruz has since apologized to Carson, and acknowledged that CNN’s original reporting was accurate.
Trump reacted with a series of angry tweets on Wednesday.
“Based on the fraud committed by Senator Ted Cruz during the Iowa Caucus, either a new election should take place or Cruz results nullified,” one of those tweets read.
In Thursday’s sit-down with CNN, Trump said some “strange things” appeared to have happened in Iowa, and that the Cruz campaign’s actions likely hurt him more than Carson.
“I like Ben Carson very much and he got pretty roughed up, frankly,” Trump said. “Although it affected me maybe more than Ben.”
But Trump added: “Who cares?”
He also laughed off Cruz’s comment that Trump had thrown a “Trumper-tantrum” after Iowa.
“I actually like that phrase,” he said. “That’s good, I better trademark it.”
Throughout his campaign, Trump has largely avoided smaller, town hall-style events. But since coming in second place after Cruz in Iowa, Trump appears to be acknowledging the importance of retail politics and one-on-one time with voters.
Trump was initially set to hold two campaign events on Thursday. But late Wednesday, the campaign announced an additional three campaign stops, including the interview with CNN and a visit with local business leaders.
Trump told Cooper that he wasn’t necessarily changing his strategy.
“I just feel very comfortable up here and I love being here,” Trump said. “There’s a great level of comfort for me in New Hampshire.”
In addition to speaking with Cooper, Trump also took questions from almost a dozen attendees at the restaurant. Many of those voters said they were still undecided on who they would vote for next week, and wanted Trump to elaborate on specific policy issues, including high out-of-pocket health care costs; how he would respond as president if ISIS attacked on American soil; and the season visa program.
One woman, Patricia Cooper, who is undecided but leaning toward Trump, said it seemed that the policy platform on Trump’s campaign website were lacking details.
“I’m very excited about a lot of the things … I love your ideas, we need all these changed, but sometimes when I read them, it’s a statement,” Cooper said. “But it’s not really saying how are you gonna do – they’re so many things to do. How are you gonna do them?”
Trump responded that he believes it’s more important to be flexible and committed to negotiating, rather than having “rigid” and detailed policy plans.
“I have a lot of papers out,” he said. “But in the end, the press wants them more than the people.”
The intimate setting of Thursday’s CNN interview meant Trump also faced some tough questions from voters – something that has not been a significant part of the GOP candidate’s usual routine.
Joseph Manzoli, who is undecided, said he has three daughters and wishes they could look up to their president as a role model.
“Throughout the course of this campaign, you’ve said some disparaging comments about women, about people from other counties, other religions, and about everybody who’s disagreed with you,” Manzoli said. “Explain to me how I can look at my daughters and have them look up to President Trump as a role model.”
Trump responded by first cracking a joke: “First of all, who asked you to give this question?”
He acknowledged that he does in fact tend to say things that are controversial. “I do bring up things that are – things that people don’t want to bring up,” he said.
Cooper also asked Trump personal questions about his family, including Trump’s brother, Fred, who died from alcohol addiction.
Trump spoke admiringly of his late brother, calling him a “great guy” who was always the “life of the party.”
“He got hooked on alcohol. Just hooked. Ultimately it just was devastating,” he said. “That’s why I don’t drink. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke cigarettes, I don’t do drugs.”