FARMINGTON, N.H. — Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, kept up his attacks Monday on his closest rival, Senator Ted Cruz, during one of his final appearances in the state before the GOP nomination battle officially kicks off.
Coasting for months on a wide lead in polling both nationally and in New Hampshire, Trump made his visit Monday night to a packed high school gymnasium as Cruz continues to gain ground in polls of Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses. Standing at a podium on a stage beneath a “Make America Great Again!” banner, Trump repeated his doubts about presidential eligibility for Cruz, who was born in Canada to a US-born mother and Cuban-born father.
“He could run right now for prime minister of Canada,” Trump said of Cruz, to whom he referred as “the Canadian.”
Trump returned repeatedly to the theme, pivoting off a discussion of eminent domain and a proposed pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast, to suggest, seemingly in jest, that Cruz had a conflict of interest over the project due to his Canadian roots.
He targeted conservative commentator and Cruz backer Glenn Beck, calling him “a weird dude” who is “always crying.”
Trump implored New Hampshire’s voters to not only deliver him a victory but also to help him win by a hefty margin in their first-in-the-nation primary on Feb. 9.
“We have to have a mandate,” Trump said.
At one point, he worried aloud whether reading polls showing him in the lead would tamp down his supporters’ sense of urgency.
“We’re getting down to crunch time,” Trump said.
He also continued his taunting of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, mocking Bush’s underperformance in polls and saying that his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, could not help her son negotiate with China or confront the Islamic State.
“What is he doing wasting all that – such a waste of money,” Trump said, drawing laughs from a crowd that organizers estimated at 1,200.
The appearance, which ran just under an hour, was a typical Trump event: He rambled, interacting with vocal supporters in the crowd and packing his remarks with the braggadocio that colors his reality TV personality.
“My whole life has been taking,” he said at one point, adding, “I’m going to be greedy for the United States of America.”
Trump returned to jabbing at Bush, whom he called a “schlub,” by noting that the former governor had taken issue with his tone.
“They’re cutting off people’s heads all over the place and he’s worried about tone,” Trump said, adding. “I have a great temperament. I have an unbelievable temperament.”
He also shot back at critics who have raised questions about his professed admiration for eminent domain. A flier left on some windshields outside Farmington High School attacked Trump for using eminent domain for profit.
“I don’t love eminent domain, but you wouldn’t have a country” with infrastructure without it, he said.
Despite months of prognostications that he would eventually fade, Trump has maintained a steady lead in New Hampshire GOP primary surveys. On Monday, a Boston Herald/Franklin Pierce University poll pegged Trump at 33 percent among GOP New Hampshire primary voters. The next closest candidates were Cruz, at 14 percent, and Ohio Governor John Kasich at 12 percent.
Cyrus Morgan, an engineer from nearby Berwick, Maine, said he voted in 2012 for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney but plans to back Trump because “he’s not mainstream.”
Asked to explain why he would choose an establishment-backed candidate such as Romney four years ago and now a candidate who has rattled the GOP power structure with his success, Morgan replied, “I think the country’s changed. It’s sort of hit its limit. I think there’s a lot of people fed up with the way it’s going.”
Christina Claus of Farmington, who said she is a foster parent for children with disabilities, said she had narrowed her choices to Trump and US Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a democratic socialist, before ultimately settling on the Republican.
Claus said she liked the pair, despite the vast ideological gulf between them, because both have shaken the politicians in their respective parties.
“I’m just sick of politicians,” she said, as Trump shook hands near the stage following his speech. “They’re like glorified Mafia.”
Claus said she was unbothered by the fact that Trump received money from his father to start his real estate business.
“He represents,” she said, before pausing, “us. The hard-working people. He’s the American dream. His path may have been a little straighter, but everybody has the same opportunities.”Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JOSreports.