Donald Trump is making some tweaks after his loss in Iowa
He's taking questions from the audience and adding events to his schedule
Still stinging from his first defeat as a presidential candidate, Donald Trump rolled into New Hampshire on Thursday with a new mantra: There is no such thing as too much campaigning.
He also broke from his usual playbook by taking questions from the audience at the first of many events planned for Thursday.
Trump was originally scheduled to hold two campaign events in the Granite State, but he squeezed in three additional stops including an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, a meeting with local business owners and an event with the Manchester Police Department.
The bulked-up schedule follows Trump’s second-place finish behind Ted Cruz in the Iowa caucuses on Monday.
Trump’s unconventional campaign style was particularly noticeable in Iowa – a state where retail politics is hugely critical – and next to Cruz, who crisscrossed the state relentlessly to ensure he had visited all 99 counties. In contrast, Trump opted for large rallies over intimate settings and extended personal interactions with voters, jetting in and out on his private jet and rarely spending the night in the state.
While the last-minute ramping up of the campaign schedule in New Hampshire doesn’t necessarily mean Trump is making substantive changes to the way he is running his campaign, it does at least suggest that he looking to step up his exposure here just days away from next Tuesday’s contest.
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks didn’t comment on Thursday’s schedule.
In his first event of the day in Exeter, Trump repeatedly emphasized the importance of the New Hampshire race.
“We’re at the beginning of a very, very important last few days. This is really crunch time,” he said. “This is going to lead to one of the most important presidential elections, maybe the most important in many, many decades. You’re going to play such a big role.”
At one point, Trump used the major hotel project he’s working on in Washington to crack a joke about losing the 2016 race. “I’m building a hotel next door, which is also located on Pennsylvania Ave.,” he said. “I have an alternative if this doesn’t work out: I’ll still be on Pennsylvania Ave. one way or another.”
After brief remarks, Trump did something he’s largely avoided so far this cycle: take questions from the audience.
Seemingly chosen at random, some half dozen individuals asked the candidate about a range of issues, from illegal immigration to Social Security, to corporate inversions and the treatment of veterans.
The first exchange he had with a woman in the crowd was tense, as she asked about the important role that undocumented immigrants play in taking on jobs that nobody else wants.
“Who told you to be here? Bernie?” he said, referring to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “You know what the backbone of our country is? People that came here and came here legally … and they worked their a–es off.”
Nearing the end of the Q&A portion of the event, Trump said he wanted to end things on a high note.
“It’s like Elton John. You always want to finish with a strong song,” he said. “If it’s a lousy question, I’ll take another one.”
In the afternoon, Trump sat down for a CNN interview at a popular local pizza joint here, where the candidate fielded questions from both Cooper and – for the second time that day – attendees in the audience.
Right off the bat, he addressed his recent calls for a rematch in Iowa.
“I’m so much into this, into New Hampshire, that I just — I don’t care about that anymore,” Trump said. “This is the place I’m focused on now.”
Recent polls have shown Trump with a significant lead over his competitors in the state, but his loss in Iowa and Marco Rubio’s stronger-than-expected finish there could shift the dynamics.
For all of his usual bombast and confidence, Trump has shown moments of introspection post-Iowa, both about himself and his campaign operations. The candidate who has openly boasted about running a non-traditional campaign admitted Tuesday that he “didn’t have much of a ground game” in Iowa, and that he is attempting to be more “understated and statesman-like.”