Donald Trump heads back to Iowa on Thursday with this question hanging over his trip: Will he once again insult Republicans in this key early voting state?
This is Trump's third trip to Iowa in about a month, and during his previous two visits, the presidential candidate strayed from his usual talking points and got rather personal with the state's voters, questioning their judgment and calling them "stupid" and "fools." At the heart of these remarks seems to be a deep frustration that one of his Republican rivals, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, is doing so well in Iowa.
During a Oct. 27 rally in Sioux City, an industrial town in the western part of the state, Trump complained that his poll numbers had recently dipped, putting him in second place behind Carson. Part of the reason, Trump said that night, is that "the evangelicals let me down a little bit."
"What the hell are you people doing to me?" Trump at one point asked the audience. That night he also seemed to beg the audience for help, saying: "Will you get the numbers up, Iowa, please? It's ridiculous."
Two days later during a rally in Reno, Nev., Trump said the "dishonest" media had mischaracterized his comments in Iowa because he does not beg. "It's just not me," he said.
About two weeks later, Trump held a Nov. 12 rally in Fort Dodge, Iowa, which is about 95 miles northwest of Des Moines, and went on a 95-minute-long rant about everything wrong in this country and everything wrong with this election, forgetting to take questions from the audience as he had promised. Trump spent more than 10 minutes that night attacking Carson in deeply personal terms as the crowd grew quiet with many people shifting uncomfortably in their seats, averting their eyes from the stage or shaking their heads.
Trump repeatedly said he can't believe Iowans still support Carson, who insists he had a troubled childhood that included violent attacks on others but became a new person when he found God. Trump told the audience not to be "fools" and believe Carson.
"How stupid are the people of Iowa?" Trump asked that night. "How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?"
Trump later said reporters mischaracterized the tone and content of his speech that night.
"The other day I made a speech -- the people in Iowa, they loved the speech, they loved it -- and I talked about the deficiencies of some of the candidates, and the newspaper says: 'Oh, it was ranting, raving,'" Trump said during a rally in Beaumont, Tex., on Saturday afternoon. "I don't rant and rave… It's incredible how dishonest the press is."
On Thursday Trump will attend a late afternoon, hourlong town hall hosted by a local television news station at a community college in Newton, Iowa, about 35 miles east of Des Moines. After the town hall event, Trump plans to hold a political rally.