Mark Chiusano is a member of the Newsday and amNew York editorial board.
EXETER, N.H. — Did you think that a second-place finish in Iowa would make him less great? The Donald is still kicking.
For the briefest of moments, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump appeared chastened by the caucus setback, until he remembered that there was something better than losing: winning. This week, Trump has gone on a Twitter rant against Sen. Ted Cruz and his wily ways, and also demanded a recount, or a redo, or whatever, in Iowa, which he said he actually won.
He is still sitting comfortably in the lead in New Hampshire polls and spent Wednesday campaigning in Arkansas. On Thursday, despite some air travel complications, he was back in New Hampshire, and the king of in-and-out campaign stops is now pounding the pavement, perhaps learning the lesson of Iowa where only toward the end would he deign to spend a night away from the comforts of New York City.
In his first appearance of the day in Exeter, the crowds were back, the bombast was high, and the speech was rambling. He focused on trade, and the jobless, and all sorts of other subjects short on logical connections but long on plural pronouns: “They don’t have the great loyalty to the United States. They come from Ireland, they come from England, they come from Asia. And frankly if they move around, they’re looking for the best deal. That’s a very dangerous thing.”
An answer about illegal immigration suddenly turned into a rant on Social Security. Plans to defeat the Islamic State would be unveiled later, so as not to warn the enemy. President Barack Obama tends to go golfing for “two or three weeks.”
There was a question from a protester, quickly shouted down. There were cheers for The Wall. There was the phrase “There’s something going on folks, and we have to find out what it is.” There was bashing of former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, polling dismally, less mention of Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, rising. There was little focus on polls in general. Perhaps Trump has lost his polling faith.
But there was no less fear, no less anger, no less disaffection, no less joy in hearing things only thought but never said, in the crowd Thursday afternoon.
There were many questions, few answers. It was a Trump rally. There will be more.