DERRY, N.H. — Donald Trump has never shied away from tooting his own horn.
“The only thing constant is Trump,” the current GOP frontrunner told the press corps Wednesday night, responding to a question about who else he thought was strong in the Republican presidential field.
As he spoke to the media, over 800 people waited to hear him speak in an adjacent room at Pinkerton Academy here. Even more filled overflow rooms and waited outside. The candidate estimated about 2,500 people.
All while a dozen miles down the road, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — frequently cast as a lackluster alternative by Trump at events such as these — pitted his “proven conservative record” against Trump’s lack thereof.
But in a race where policy versus showmanship seem to be in constant contention, Bush’s message of proven conservatism stood in stark comparison to Trump’s unscripted remarks to a group of rowdy supporters that resembled more of cheering fans of a winning football team than voters weighing policy specifics.
“Right down the road, we have Jeb. Very small crowd,” Trump said, following up with a question: “You know what’s happening to Jeb’s crowd? They’re sleeping!”
The real estate mogul continued to hit Bush for his comments on women’s health, and brought attention to recent Bush remarks regarding Iraq, calling Bush’s comment about needing to show the Iraqis that we have “skin in the game” a “can you believe it” moment.
“After years of fighting … can you believe ‘skin in the game?’ And I thought that was incredibly dumb. As dumb as on immigration, an ‘act of love.’ It’s an act of love when they come in. It’s an act of love. Or a belief in Common Core.”
Trump’s explanation for why he was spending time talking about Jeb:
“He was supposed to do well in New Hampshire,” Trump explained as the crowd booed. But Trump’s current assessment of Bush’s campaign in the Granite State is that he’s “going down like a rock” questioning how he can do well while backing policies like Common Core. One supporter called out “Isn’t Jeb sinking to the bottom of Winnipesaukee right now?”
Among laughs, Trump responded, “Oh my group. These are my people!”
The town hall event went on for about an hour and he took six questions. The first, from a female attendee, was regarding his hubris and if he thought it would get in the way of earning votes from people who are “tired” of that kind of egotistical rhetoric and action.
Trump agreed that it “could be” he doesn’t turn those voters to his side, but that it “takes guts” to run for office.
He then used the next 10 minutes to answer the question, discussing immigration, building projects he has underway in D.C. (“under budget and ahead of schedule!”), career politicians, and the need for better infrastructure.
When another attendee asked him if he could elaborate on any more policy specifics, other than immigration, on which Trump released a paper earlier this week, Trump promised he would be “doing a lot of policy positions” and then blamed the press for pushing the issue.
“I actually think the press wants the so-called policy positions more than the people, if you wanna know the truth,” he said.
For a crowd that so typically jumps at the chance to boo or heckle the press, an atypical moment of silence followed.
When Trump gave an example of a hypothetical China policy a few minutes later, another crowd goer called out “so where’s the policy?”