U.S. billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump at first said he was honored to finish second in this week's Republican presidential nomination caucuses in Iowa, but Wednesday he claimed the winner, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, "stole" the election.
Trump, a flamboyant political novice, wrote a Twitter message alleging that Cruz, a conservative firebrand, "didn't win Iowa, he stole it. That is why all of the polls were so wrong and why he got far more votes than anticipated. Bad!"
The 69-year-old Trump, who was competing in his first election, attacked the Cruz campaign for putting out a statement, which Cruz later apologized for, suggesting that another candidate, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, was leaving the race and that his supporters should instead vote for Cruz.
Trump also accused Cruz of lying about Trump's policies and of sending some Iowa voters a mailing designed to look like an official document that accused them of a "voter violation." The mailers gave the recipients a failing grade for not voting in past elections, and said they could rectify it by voting for Cruz in Monday's caucuses.
Trump: Vote again, Iowa
Trump, a longtime New York developer, casino magnate and one-time television reality show host, called for either a new election in Iowa or nullifying Cruz's win.
Neither is likely to happen and Cruz's campaign treated Trump's broadside with amusement.
"Reality just hit the reality star — he lost Iowa and now nobody is talking about him, so he's popping off on Twitter," a Cruz spokesman said. "There are support groups for Twitter addiction. Perhaps he should find his local chapter."
Trump's revised assessment of the Iowa outcome came as the still-large field of Republican candidates and two Democratic contenders fanned out across the northeastern state of New Hampshire, where the next voting in the presidential race is set for Tuesday.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, fresh off her narrow win in Iowa, is taking part in a town hall event Wednesday night with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and the Democrats have a debate scheduled for Thursday.
Republicans are set to hold a debate Saturday.
New Hampshire voters
While the small state is rural, like much of Iowa, analysts say its Republican electorate is much less religious than the group of voters that helped give Cruz a 28-to-24 percent margin over Trump in Iowa.
Another conservative, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, finished a close third with 23 percent in Iowa and is looking to move higher in the New Hampshire voting. Rubio said he would seek to win over voters who supported Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who dropped out of the race Wednesday.
Pre-election voter surveys in New Hampshire show Trump with a commanding lead over his Republican challengers, but the polling was conducted before the Iowa vote debunked any thought that Trump would sweep to the nomination with wins in state-after-state party elections.
Surveys of Democratic voters in New Hampshire show Sanders, who represents adjoining Vermont in the Senate, with a wide lead over Clinton, the country's top diplomat from 2009 to 2013.
Several Republican candidates, all calling themselves conservatives but minus some of the harsher rhetoric employed by Cruz, are looking to New Hampshire to revive their campaigns after poor showings in the farm state of Iowa.
Ohio Governor John Kasich, endorsed by The New York Times for the Republican nomination, has campaigned for weeks in New Hampshire and has pulled to second place behind Trump in some voter surveys in the state.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he intends to campaign hard in the state in the coming days, and he leveled new attacks on Trump and Rubio as unqualified to be president.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, the son and brother of U.S. presidents, has made numerous political stops in New Hampshire and is looking to breathe new life into his well-funded, but stumbling, campaign. He is bringing his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, now 90 years old, to New Hampshire to campaign for him.