AMHERST, N.H. - Real estate mogul Donald Trump, a day after announcing he'll form a presidential exploratory committee, told activists on Thursday his business experience makes him the best candidate to reform Washington.
"We need people in Washington that know how to make a deal," said Trump, who is considering a bid for the Republican nomination.
Trump spoke at the home of New Hampshire state Rep. Steve Stepanek. Although Trump's critics say he would bring an unflattering and circus-like atmosphere to Republican politics, many people in the crowd said they appreciate the reality TV star's willingness to say exactly what he thinks.
"A man that has the ability to handle the press, play with them and hold his ground, I have tremendous respect for that," said Lori Davis, vice-president of the GOP committee in Weare. "He's not afraid."
Trump has repeatedly flirted with a presidential run, but he has recently begun hiring staff in early voting states, including New Hampshire. He did not stop to speak with reporters after the event Thursday but said as he got into a black SUV that he has a "better chance than anybody" of beating former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic favourite for the nomination.
Trump shook a few hands as he headed toward the door rather than staying to mingle with the crowd of state lawmakers and activists. Earlier in the day, he attended private meetings with a group of New Hampshire veterans and Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas.
Trump's pitch to the crowd centred on his career as a businessman. Unlike some of his potential Republican rivals, he said, he would not cut entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicaid.
"I would make this country so rich that you wouldn't have to cut it," he said.
Trump also suggested to the crowd that Wall Street financiers — he called many of them "horrible people" — would negotiate better on the world stage than existing U.S. diplomats.
His comments reflected the brash style that many in the audience said they'd like to see more of in Washington.
"I not only like it, I admire it," said Randy Heller, an independent voter from Barrington. "Many great men have high self-confidence."