Cruz bested Trump with 28 percent of caucus-goers’ pledges on Monday compared to Trump’s 24 percent. Florida Senator Marco Rubio came in a close third with 23 percent.
Asked by a reporter if he felt at all bad about the result, Trump said, “There’s a tinge…I probably had a tinge because a poll came out that said I was five points ahead.”
In the weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Trump held leads in almost every statewide and national poll though his dominance in Iowa wobbled after Cruz won a key endorsement from a local evangelical Christian leader.
Trump also said there was a chance his decision to skip a Fox News debate among Republican candidates on Thursday might have hurt him in the caucuses.
Asked before a rally in Milford, New Hampshire on Tuesday evening if he planned to change his campaign strategy, Trump told a news conference he felt confident in his methods, but he was adding more town hall-style events.
But any humility was fleeting as Trump went on to say he beat Rubio by getting support from almost 3,000 Iowans – “That’s a lot of people” – and that he had gotten a larger percentage of support than any other Republican candidate in history “except for that one number,” he added, referring to Cruz’s win.
He also said he had not tried very hard to win Iowa. “I didn’t devote tremendous time to it,” he said. “I didn’t expect to do so well.”
Trump fielded question after question from reporters about why he thought he lost and whether it made him anxious about primary elections in other states ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election.
When he took the stage before more than a thousand people, Trump’s swagger had returned. He criticized the media for focusing more on Rubio’s third-place showing than his second, calling journalists “miserable people” and encouraging the crowd to boo them.
Fans interviewed before the rally said Trump’s loss did not bother them.
“I think he’s done pretty well from the start,” said Eli Johnson, 33, from nearby Brookline, New Hampshire. “He did pretty well considering Cruz was praying with everyone at every rally (in Iowa) and they’re a really religious state.”