SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — Unseated as the front-runner in Iowa polls, a kinder, humbler Donald Trump emerged Tuesday evening at a rally in Sioux City, Iowa, where the billionaire businessman practically begged voters for support.
"Iowa, will you get your numbers up, please?" Trump urged the crowd of nearly 2,400. "I promise you I will do such a good job."
It was Trump's first appearance in the early-voting state since a series of polls that show the Republican presidential contender now running second behind Ben Carson, the soft-spoken, retired neurosurgeon.
The usually bombastic Trump sounded a gentler tone in addressing his fall in the Iowa polls, joking with supporters that he wouldn't take them to task for the drop. "This is ridiculous," he said. "I mean, what is my competition, in all fairness?"
"I mean, I am second," he added. "It's not, like, terrible. But I don't like being second. Second is terrible to me."
Trump also overhauled his usual rally format by taking questions. At one point, he descended from the stage to join the audience so that he could speak directly to Todd Landen, a U.S. Army veteran seriously wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
Landen and his wife, Aprel, told Trump they've had trouble getting medical treatment through the Veterans Affairs Department for Todd's traumatic brain injury. "We can't get an appointment," Aprel Landen said.
Trump took the couple's information and promised to intervene with the VA. "We're going to take care of our vets, and we're going to take care of the Landens," Trump said over the approving roar of the crowd.
Trump also touted his Christian faith, just days after taking a swipe at Carson's religious denomination, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
"I am a great Christian," Trump said. "I'm a believer, and I believe in the bible."
Trump also promised he would go to China to tell its leaders that the communist country's trade practices regarding the U.S. are unfair. "Do you think that Ben is going to go to China?" he asked.
Trump's appearance was protested by hundreds of students, parents and other Sioux City residents who said the Republican presidential candidate's rhetoric about immigrants violated the anti-bullying policy of the northwestern Iowa high school where he was speaking.
Colvin reported from Washington.