NASHUA, N.H. - Donald Trump said his decision to skip the Fox News GOP presidential debate "turned out great" and called chief rival Ted Cruz "an anchor baby in Canada" during a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Friday.
"I did something that was very risky and I think it turned out great because I'm on the front page of every paper. I'm getting more publicity than if I [was in the debate]," Trump said the morning after missing the final Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses.
Instead of debating, Trump held his own counter-programming just a few minutes away from the event site in Des Moines, Iowa. He said he raised $6 million for veterans' organizations.
Another reason why the GOP front runner called his decision a success was because the attention shifted to chief rival Ted Cruz. "Rough Night for Cruz," blared the front page headline in Friday's Des Moines Register.
"Cruz, who is in second place, he got really pummeled last night," Trump said.
He then went into his favorite attack on Cruz -- reminding voters that the Texas senator was born in Canada.
"They didn't even mention that he was born in Canada, right?" Trump said. "You know, when you're born in Canada you're not supposed to be running for president of the United States. Prime minister of Canada, no problem."
Trump joked that Cruz, who was born to an American mother in Calgary, Canada, is "an anchor baby in Canada."
Constitutional scholars largely agree that Cruz's place of birth isn't an issue, since he was born a U.S. citizen because of his U.S. citizen mother. Cruz formally renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2014.
While the rest of the presidential field is campaigning in Iowa, three days before the nation's first caucuses, Trump spent his morning in the nation's first primary state instead. His rally in Nashua was held less than 12 hours after his event in Des Moines, and the first thing out of Trump's mouth when he entered the New Hampshire ballroom was remarking on how he's "allowed to make speeches with absolutely no sleep."
Trump has built a big habit at all of his recent New Hampshire appearances of lodging continuous attacks on the publisher of the Union Leader newspaper, Joe McQuiad. McQuaid has critiqued Trump in a series of editorials, causing Trump to blast back in a weeks-long uproar against McQuiad and the paper, charging Friday morning that "he's a bad guy, he's a bad person," and that the publication will be "dead soon."
Trump also linked the issue to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who the paper endorsed after Thanksgiving. Trump called Christie "a friend," yet claimed he has "no chance, no chance, got no chance. Zero. He's gone down since he got the endorsement."
That rant about the Union Leader brought Trump to brag of his own following on social media and marvel at how he's able to speak directly to his supporters without the help of the traditional media outlets.
"That's what I like about Twitter," he said. "I'm able to do a few words…when you have 12 million people between Twitter and Facebook, that's like owning the New York Times without the losses."
Trump also took aim at Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley, noting a story from Iowa that only one person showed up to one of his campaign events. Trump failed to note the story's update that the lone spectator plans to caucus for O'Malley now.
"Why is O'Malley running?" Trump asked. "What's that all about? O'Malley. You know what his claim to fame is, he was the mayor of Baltimore, OK?" saying somewhat sarcastically, "he left them a great, great blueprint for the future."
As Trump has done with most of his recent rallies, he pushed his audience members to show up at the voting booth and cast their ballots. He told his supporters that even if their spouse left them, or "you may have lost your job, you may be in a state of major, major depression, get out and vote! I will get rid of your depression."
Trump spoke in a big ballroom at the Radisson Hotel here, in front of a giant sign for his name, and beneath bright chandeliers. About a thousand people were in attendance.
"He's someone who is on my list to potentially vote for," said Barry Real of Nashua, who attended Trump's event but is also considering candidates like Carly Fiorina. "I'm trying to get someone who is not part of the government, and that's one of the things about him that I like."
"He's number one on the list," said Real, but "I still want to see more."