In an usually calm and short speech, Trump congratulated Cruz and expressed confidence that he would go on to win the nomination, citing a recent poll that put him 28 points ahead in New Hampshire, the site of the next Republican primary.
It's unclear what Trump's underwhelming performance tonight will mean for his chances in New Hampshire. Trump put a positive spin on his second-place Iowa finish, despite once saying that anything but first place amounted to a "big, fat, beautiful waste of time."
Below is a rush transcript of Trump's speech.
Thank you very much. I love you people. I love you people. Thank you. Unbelievable. I have to start by saying, I simply love the people of Iowa. Unbelievable. So on June 16 when we started this journey, there were 17 candidates. I was told by everybody, "Do not go to Iowa. You couldn't finish in the top 10." I said, "I have friends in Iowa; I know a lot of people in Iowa; I think they'll really like me." They said, "Don't do it." I said, "I have to do it." And we finished second and I want to tell you something: I'm just honored. I'm really honored.
I want to congratulate Ted and all the incredible candidates, including Mike Huckabee, who's become a really good friend of mine.
Congratulations to everybody. Congratulations. I want to thank all of the folks that worked with us. We had a great team, and we'll continue to have a great team. We're so happy with the way everything worked out. I have to thank my wife and Laura and Eric and Vanessa and Don. They went out and they were doing speeches and, in fact, I think Don and Erica — you did about six speeches today. I want to thank my family. They have been so amazing and so supportive.
And we've had every indication, we're going … we have a poll: We're 28 points ahead, New Hampshire. We love New Hampshire; we love South Carolina; and we're leaving tonight and tomorrow afternoon. We'll be in New Hampshire and that will be something special. It's going to be a great week, and we're going to be up here next week.
I think we're going to be proclaiming victory, I hope. I don't know who's going to win between Bernie and Hillary. I don't know what's going to happen with Hillary; she has other problems, maybe bigger than the problems she's got, in terms of nominations.
But we've had so many different indications and polls that we beat her and we beat her reasonably. And we will go on to get the Republican nomination, and we will go on to easily beat Hillary Clinton or Bernie or whoever they throw up there. Iowa: We love you, we thank you. You're special. We will be back many, many times. In fact, I think I might come here and buy a farm, I love it. Okay?
Thank you, thank you, everybody thank you. Thank you very much.