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ATKINSON, N.H. — Donald Trump told a packed room Monday that the United States should not use its resources to liberate woman from local requirements to wear burkas.

“They want to. What the hell are we getting involved for?” he asked the large crowd at the Atkinson Resort & Country Club.

He added that it’s easier for women when they do wear burkas, saying, “You don’t have to put on make-up. . . . Wouldn’t that be easier?”

“I tell ya, if I was a woman,” he said, waving his hand over his face to signal a burka. “I’m ready darling, let’s go.”

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The Republican front-runner in New Hampshire made the comments at a 45-minute rally that preceded his appearance on NBC’s “Today” show, which included a question-and-answer session with about 125 New Hampshire voters. Entering the ballroom to Twisted Sister’s anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” Trump told the rally crowd that bravado is what’s needed to lead the country.

“Bush said: I don’t like Mr. Trump’s tone,” Trump said. “We have people — their heads are being chopped off in the Middle East and he’s worried about tone. We need tough tone. Believe me it’s time.”

Trump said he would back up tough talk with a beefed-up military.

“We’re going to build the strongest military we’ve ever had in this country,” he said.

Trump took aim at former Florida governor Jeb Bush (“He’s meeting with mom and dad. He needs counsel.”), Ben Carson (“Even lower energy than Bush”), and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton (“What a mess.”). But Trump reserved his sharpest criticism for some journalists, after noting that he believed a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll incorrectly showed him trailing Carson in Iowa.

“They’re scum. They are horrible people,” he said to loud cheers.

He said his campaign has taught him “how brilliant the public is and how bad the press is.”

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Less than a half-hour later, he sat face to face with “Today” host Matt Lauer, who moderated the question-and-answer session with voters. Trump adopted a softer stance at this event, describing himself as “a nice guy.” He said he gave away “tremendous amounts of money” and “loves to help people.”

But he said the campaign is not about niceness but rather competence. Asked by an audience member if he had ever been told no, Trump said he’d heard the word many times.

“My whole life has been a ‘no,’ ” he said. “It has not been easy for me. I started off in Brooklyn. My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars.”

Lauer responded that $1 million was not a small sum, to which Trump responded, “A million dollars isn’t very much compared to what I built. I built one of the great companies.”

Trump told one audience member who questioned his ability to handle relations with world leaders that he went to an Ivy League school and therefore knows “when to be politically correct.”

He added, “How can it be worse than Obama? He doesn’t get along with anybody?”

Kiel Lynch, a mother of two from Derry who works as a hospital technician, said she loved Trump’s candid emphasis on a strong defense — particularly at the border with Mexico.

“I’ll feel safe,” she said.

Karoline Leavitt, a freshman at nearby Saint Anselm College, said Trump’s comments about not interfering in countries where women wear burkas made sense, particularly as the United States tries to promote democracy abroad.

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“It’s a free country,” she said.


Sarah Schweitzer can be reached at sarah.schweitzer@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @SarahSchweitzer.