New York Times
By Maggie Haberman
February 9, 2016
After losing the Iowa caucuses, Donald J. Trump acted like a heavyweight champion who had just been knocked down.
He lurched from one event to another, sounding defiant one moment and humbled the next. He went uncharacteristically silent for most of a day on Twitter, and barely mentioned his polling numbers after months of bragging about them.
But Mr. Trump’s convincing victory in New Hampshire on Tuesday finally validated those numbers and gave the irrepressible celebrity candidate the status his opponents long feared, as a bona fide leader in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Despite a stream of provocative and even offensive remarks by Mr. Trump right up to the night before the primary, comments that might have destroyed any other candidate, his supporters mostly appeared to have made up their minds months ago, and never wavered.
“Wow, wow, wow,” he said as he took the stage at his victory party Tuesday night, his family alongside him.
After beating some of the Republican Party’s brightest stars in New Hampshire following a second-place finish in Iowa, Mr. Trump heads into a string of primaries in conservative Southern states in a position of strength.
For a man used to setting the terms of whatever debate he is having, Mr. Trump’s win on Tuesday keeps him in the race for the foreseeable future and means he will go to the party’s convention in Cleveland in July armed with delegates.
His win signals not just a potential shift in the way campaigns spread their message — social media over mainstream media; television shows rather than news conferences; big rallies instead of meet-and-greets — but also confirms the growing chasm between the Republican Party’s leaders and its voters. Mr. Trump has run hard on anxiety over terrorism and especially illegal immigration, and his calls for mass deportations and a “big, beautiful wall” at the Mexican border have shredded the party’s longstanding efforts to attract the growing Latino electorate.
At Mr. Trump’s primary night party here, the mood was far more buoyant than it had been in Iowa the night of the caucuses.
“I like his view on three items — borders, language and culture,” said Andrew Horvit, 69, a retired businessman from Londonderry, who said he had supported Mr. Trump since he began his candidacy. “As time goes by it’s like a grandfather clock. When the pendulum swings too far to the left, and it’s way over to the left, it has to swing back to the center.”
Mr. Trump’s win answered two key questions — whether he could actually win after projecting he would for months, and whether his supporters, who are not reliable voters, would turn out on Primary Day. His victory also came after the Republican establishment essentially averted its gaze for months, and after most of his rivals, with the exception of Jeb Bush, made little effort to take him on.
If Mr. Trump has had a disorienting effect on the Republican primary campaign, his second-place finish in Iowa had a similar effect on him. He was frustrated by the loss, according to people who spoke with him, and could not fathom why things had not gone better. Suddenly, the core message of his campaign — I win at everything I do — was in doubt.
For the next four days, he was largely absent from the campaign trail. On Twitter and in person he appeared uncertain at first about what to say. He sounded notes of humility that were supplanted quickly by firm insistence that he, not Senator Ted Cruz, had actually won the Iowa caucuses because of improprieties by Mr. Cruz’s staff.
Mr. Trump canceled a town hall-style meeting in New Hampshire last week, claiming the airports were closed due to snow and that had kept him from traveling. They were not closed, but the additional day gave Mr. Trump more time to prepare for a crucial debate on Saturday night. He fared well, but it appeared to take something out of him and he conceded he had been under “a lot of pressure.”
The next day, he bypassed one of his campaign stops and sounded exhausted at a rally in Holderness, conflating his thoughts about improving the military with his vow to build a border wall. At one point he sounded annoyed by the length of the drive to Manchester. He did not attend a Super Bowl party, holing up in his hotel, tweeting.
Mr. Trump, a man who has long relied on his feel for the room, seemed to realize after Iowa that his instincts were not a firm compass for the unfamiliar terrain of a presidential race. He even behaved more like the typical politicians he is so fond of berating.
He hosted a few smaller events, replete with “I feel your pain” connections with voters who told him personal stories of heartbreak. The extra effort may have paid off.
“Here he is, a multimillionaire,” said Ray Breslin, a retiree who went to Mr. Trump’s event in Londonderry on Monday. “He doesn’t have to take the time to be signing autographs and shaking hands, either. He could just zoom out of here. It’s only a little venue.”
Mr. Trump, who has never thought much of the political profession, praised his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, on Tuesday night, saying, “We learned a lot about ground games in one week, I have to tell you that.”
It remains to be seen which version of Mr. Trump will emerge in the Southern states, where deeply conservative voters could decide the winners. Mr. Trump prefers the rally format visually and because it is easier for him to perform in. He has resisted calls from his advisers to invest more heavily in the race, boasting about his campaign being under budget based on figures he appears to pluck from the air. Mr. Trump barely invested resources in New Hampshire, spending only on advertising in January.
“His lack of running a serious, professional campaign cost him even more potential voters than he lost in Iowa a week earlier,” said David Carney, a Republican strategist in New Hampshire who ran the 2012 presidential campaign of Rick Perry, then the governor of Texas. “With the crowd of candidates about to dramatically shrink his lack of investing in a campaign structure will cost him even more potential delegates down the road.”
Mr. Trump will head to South Carolina on Wednesday, but he is not expected to linger, with stops expected in later-voting states like Florida. On Tuesday, he started airing a blistering ad against Mr. Cruz, whom he sees as his closest competitor in South Carolina, which votes on Feb. 20.
In March, the race becomes a hodgepodge of primaries held in a short period, so Mr. Trump’s drive-by style of campaigning could compensate for any weaknesses on the ground.
And his victory in New Hampshire could ease doubts about the strength of his candidacy, including those he himself was having.
Mr. Trump had shown signs of reverting to form by Monday.
Speaking in front of 5,000 people at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, he goaded a woman who called out a vulgarism in reference to Mr. Cruz, and then he repeated the word from the stage. He also appeared at three smaller gatherings, including one where he stood in the center of the room in his overcoat, fielding mostly laudatory questions but some uncomfortable ones.
One woman asked him if he would refund a contribution from a white nationalist. He said he would. When she pressed him, he replied, “Don’t be so angry.”
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