Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is leading in national polls. (Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union - Jacksonville.com via AP)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump struck an introspective tone Monday, talking about his road to becoming a real estate mogul -- an empire he built with just a "small loan of $1 million."

"My whole life really has been a 'no' and I fought through it. I talk about it. It has not been easy for me. It has not been easy for me. I started off in Brooklyn. My father gave me a small loan of $1 million," he said Monday during a New Hampshire town hall broadcast by NBC's "Today" Monday.

He added: "I came into Manhattan and I had to pay him back -- I had to pay him back with interest. I was always told that that would never work."

Trump spoke about his decision to start a real estate business in Manhattan -- saying his father, who had a real estate business based in Brooklyn and Queens, discouraged the move. "He said, 'Don't go to Manhattan, that's not our territory.' But he was very proud of me," Trump said.

Town hall moderator Matt Lauer pressed back on Trump's comment, pointing out that a million dollar loan is something most Americans can only dream of -- not a rags-to-riches story.

"Let's just put this in perspective: you said it hasn't been easy for you, '...but my dad gave me a million dollar loan.'" Lauer said. "That probably is going to seem pretty easy to a lot of people."

As The Post's Philip Bump notes, that first loan wasn't the only financial advantage Trump's family provided as time went on:

As the Times's Timothy O'Brien reported in a 2005 look at Trump's net worth, Trump asked for a $10 million loan against his inheritance to bolster his faltering properties. His siblings, who had a stake in the pool of money that would be inherited, grudgingly agreed. A year later, he asked for $20 million more. Trump denies this account.

Wherever the truth lies, it's clear that Trump got more than a $1 million loan (paid back with interest) from his father. He got control of his company and, ultimately, a large inheritance (although the where, when and how much on this is murky). And when he was in financial trouble in the early 1990s — being dropped from the Forbes 400 in 1990 — he had his family's wealth as a backstop.

Trump conceded Lauer's point Monday, but gave some of his own perspective: "You're right. But a million dollars isn't very much compared to what I built," he said.