NASHUA, N.H. — When Donald Trump helicoptered out of New Hampshire two weeks ago after claiming victory in the “birther” controversy, GOP leaders and activists wondered whether he would eventually dial back his showmanship and move to more serious topics.
The real estate mogul and reality television star still choppered in for an appearance Wednesday, but he shifted his focus mostly to foreign policy in an off-the-cuff speech that also touched on China, gas prices, Pakistan and Iraq.
The change came as Trump, introduced as “the man, the legend, the Donald,” delivered a 45-minute address to an audience of about 600 people at a luncheon sponsored by the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce.
Trump has faced declining poll numbers as well as recent ridicule, not only from late-night comedians but President Obama, all of it against the backdrop of a major foreign policy victory for Obama with the death of Osama bin Laden.
Trump called the al-Qaeda leader’s killing “a great victory,” asserting that enhanced interrogation techniques had led U.S. investigators to bin Laden.
“We wouldn’t have caught bin Laden without it. That’s what got us to him,” he said, adding that no interrogators should be under investigation for employing such techniques.
It was one of the lines in his speech that drew a smattering of applause.
“I said Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan, and I was very loud and clear,” he said. “We give Pakistan billions and billions of dollars a year, I said, long before the event took place. . . . ‘You tell them, we’re not giving you any money unless you hand over to us Osama bin Laden’ . . . and nobody else picked it up.”
Since his last trip to the Granite State, Trump’s main talking point — questioning Obama’s background and credentials — has been addressed head-on by the president with the release of his long-form birth certificate.
Trump again took credit for the development but insisted that it was never his top issue.
“I was honored that I was able to get him to do it, and I guess that whole debate will rage,” he said. “But my whole thing from Day One has been jobs, it’s been jobs, it’s been the economy.”
He also stressed his business savvy, saying it could improve the nation’s standing in the world.
“If I run, and if I win, and that’s a big if, this country will be great again, this country will be rich again, and maybe most importantly of all, this country will be respected again,” he said.
Trump has said he will make an announcement about his campaign plans after his television show, “Celebrity Apprentice,” wraps up for the season this month. He seemed to suggest that he might run as an independent, saying he is not part of the Republican inner circle.
He said his economic strategy would include repealing the health-care law passed last year, lowering gasoline prices and bringing back manufacturing jobs.
“We have to get the country going again,” he said.