© Getty Images
MILFORD, N.H. — Looking past a second-place finish in Iowa, Republican presidential candidate Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCombating opioid epidemic, repealing ObamaCare will hurt the cause Money doesn't buy elections and elections aren't rigged. Period. Ongoing wiretapping saga raises host of legal questions MORE has changed his tone when it comes to winning.
“I didn’t expect to do so well [in Iowa],” Trump told a group of reporters here overlooking the excited crowd, shortly before taking the stage.
“I guess what did happen is that one poll came out that said I was 4 or 5 points ahead and then maybe built up the false expectations or something.”
This is a major shift for the outspoken front-runner who famously boasts his poll numbers — often by memory — during his energetic rallies.
A little over a month ago, Trump told a similar crowd in the nearby town of Nashua that he would win Iowa and that his lead was undeniable. Trump often criticized the Des Moines Register in Iowa and other polls that had Ted Cruz leading him.
“PPP Iowa ... 28 to 25, Trump over Cruz. [The media], they don’t tell you that,” he said at the time. “They only tell you the one poll, The Des Moines Register, who I have a big problem with.”
But now that Cruz has bested him in his first real test of support, Trump is shifting to more modest expectations.
"I’d love to finish first,” he said Tuesday. “It wouldn't be horrible [if I came in second] because I'm competing against people who have been politicians all their lives.
“There were 17 candidates — I came in second. I’m not humiliated."
Despite his second-place finish, Trump did have a record number of votes in the first-in-the-nation caucus state — and made sure his supporters at the rally knew it.
Trump locked down 45,416 votes in Iowa on Monday night. That tops the last two Republican Caucus winners: Rick Santorum, who received 29,839 votes in 2012, and 40,841 for Mike Huckabee in 2008.
When asked whether skipping the Fox News Debate in Iowa because of a feud with the network hurt him, the real estate mogul admitted it disappointed some voters and might have had an effect on his campaign. But he spun a second-place finish to a positive note for his charitable giving.
"If I took second place and gave $6 million to vets, I'd rather that,” he said.
But Trump, in typical Donald Trump fashion, looked past Iowa and to hopeful expectations in the Granite State, where he is currently leading the next-highest Republican rival by 22 points, according to the Real Clear Politics average.
“I think New Hampshire fits me better. I’ve done very well in New Hampshire and have very good relationships with people in New Hampshire,” he said.
And while not dwelling on his poll numbers, Trump did quickly mention his lead in the polls.
“I’m leading ... in every single national poll and just about every state poll. I spent the least and am doing the best.”