SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Businessman Donald Trump is a proud man. But he’s not too proud to beg.
“Iowa, will you get your numbers up, please?” he pleaded to a crowd in Sioux City, where he made his first stop in Iowa since recent polls showed him falling behind retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. “I promise you, I will do such a good job.”
Trump had led the GOP pack in Iowa until last week. But an Iowa Poll conducted by The Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics put Carson at 28% and Trump at 19%, and other polls have reported a similar reversal in fortune.
Trump has decried those numbers on national TV since their release, questioning the results and the pollsters who, he said, “do not like me.”
But Tuesday night he seemed to acknowledge their credibility, asking the crowd to continue supporting him, to help him get those numbers up and to caucus for him Feb. 1.
“I refuse to say get your asses in gear,” he said. “I refuse to say it! … So will you please do me a favor and work with my people and go out on Feb. 1 and vote? And if I win Iowa, we’re going to run the whole table.”
Volunteers in white Trump T-shirts wandered through the crowd ahead of the event, asking people to commit to caucusing and to commit to bringing friends and family members with them.
Coleen Reich, a Sioux City retiree, said ahead of the event that she was unsure about Trump because of the negative reaction he showed to the poll results, saying it wasn’t presidential.
“I don’t like his name calling,” she said. “We did that as children, but then we were taught better manners and we grew out of it.”
But after the event, she said with tears in her eyes that she was ready to vote for Trump because of his speech. She said her husband was a prisoner of war, and a moment in which Trump responded to a question from a disabled veteran moved her.
That veteran was having trouble getting an appointment through the Department of Veterans Affairs, a family member said. Trump asked them to write their information on a note card, and he would “pressure the VA like you wouldn’t believe” until the agency had solved the problem.
A count of the crowd seated in the bleachers and an estimate of those on the floor came to about 2,000 people. The Trump campaign said the number was close to 3,000.
Trump also spoke extensively about super political action committees, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of candidates as long as they don’t directly coordinate. As the race’s richest competitor, Trump has said he will self-finance his candidacy.
“It’s a scam, and it should be stopped,” he said. “And it’s unfair to somebody like me that’s spending my own money.”
Trump called out other candidates — and specifically former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — who are leaning heavily on the super PACs that back them.
“Super PACs are controlling your candidates,” Trump said to cheers.
USA TODAY Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page gives us the rundown of what to expect from the GOP debate Wednesday night.
ABOUT THE EVENT
SETTING: The gymnasium at West High School in Sioux City.
CROWD: The audience filled bleachers on one side of the gym as well as the floor surrounding the stage.
REACTION: The crowd cheered enthusiastically throughout.
WHAT’S NEXT: This was Trump’s only stop of the trip, and he has not yet announced any other Iowa campaign stops. But he said he will not abandon Iowa in favor of New Hampshire, as some have suggested.
Follow Brianne Pfannenstiel on Twitter: @brianneDMR
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