MILFORD, N.H. — If you think Donald Trump lost the Iowa caucuses, Trump has news: You have it totally wrong.
Trump likes to describe himself as different from ordinary politicians, guys who have spent their lives debating and running. But Trump’s post-Iowa spin was dizzying enough to give a career politician vertigo. Trump’s appearance here — at a news conference beforehand and at a boisterous rally after — was a master class in spin.
“Fantastic results,” Trump observed. “Unbelievable.”
If there were unaccustomed hints of humility in Trump’s concession speech Monday night, if he sounded a tad subdued, all that had evaporated somewhere en route to New Hampshire, replaced by a touch of social media petulance — not only to the news media but toward voters themselves.
“The media has not covered my long-shot great finish in Iowa fairly,” Trump tweeted at 11:29 a.m. Tuesday. “Brought in record voters and got second highest vote total in history!”
And, ten minutes later, “I don’t believe I have been given any credit by the voters for self-funding my campaign, the only one. I will keep doing, but not worth it!”
Trump was still worked up when he got to Milford, touting an endorsement by former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.
Iowa shouldn’t be considered a loss, Trump explained to a rally here and to reporters at a news conference beforehand, because he started so far back in the pack. “They said if you get in the top 10 you’d be lucky,” Trump said. So coming in second was, if you think about it, a remarkable achievement.
It wasn’t a loss because Trump didn’t spend as much per vote as his rivals, so it demonstrated that he was the “most efficient” investor. “Lowest, the great Donald Trump,” Trump crowed of his spending. “I spent the least, and I had the best results.”
It wasn’t a loss because he won more votes than any other Republican in the history of the caucuses — “except for one.” And Trump should get the credit, in any case, because it was his presence in the race that drew a record-breaking turnout. “The biggest vote in the history of a primary in Iowa,” Trump said. Primary, caucus, whatever. “I’m not going to say that was me, but believe me it was me.”
In fact, if it was a loss, which you should understand it wasn’t, the reason might have been that he decided to ditch the Fox debate. In which case he has no regrets, because he raised millions for veterans in the space of a single hour. “I would never give that up to go between first and second,” Trump said.
What really got his goat was the biased media — “the most dishonest people ever. Ever” — blaring its insistence, “Trump in second, he’s humiliated.” And, not only that, talking about the “unbelievable night” for Marco Rubio, with his poor third-place showing. In fact, Trump fell far shorter of Ted Cruz, 24.3 percent of the delegates to Cruz’s 27.6 percent, than Rubio, at 23.1 percent, did in relation to Trump.
The problem, Trump observed, was that polls “built up false expectations for some people” — as if it weren’t Trump himself who had touted those poll numbers and flat-out predicted a win. “In Iowa, I’m leading. Nobody says it,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Jan. 3. “I want to win Iowa.”
Spin notwithstanding, he didn’t. But “I don’t like to hear ‘second’ that much either.” Which was about the most honest thing that he said all evening.
(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group