CLEAR LAKE | Donald Trump fervently struck up some familiar campaign themes Saturday, sometimes with expletives, as he spoke to about 1,700 enthusiasts packed into the Surf Ballroom.
As he usually does, he touted his poll numbers which show he is the clear national favorite for the Republican presidential nomination.
But he acknowledged he is running about even in Iowa and made a point of challenging the qualifications of his nearest GOP rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
Trump has mentioned in the past that Cruz, who was born in Canada, might not be considered a natural-born American citizen — a constitutional requirement to serve as president.
Saturday, he hammered home the point. "If you're born in Canada, it's a little bit of a problem," he said. "It's not a settled matter. He needs to seek a declaratory judgment from a court."
Trump said legal experts have said there is a question as to whether Cruz can be considered a natural-born citizen.
"We can't have somebody who will be immediately sued by the Democrats," said Trump. "We can't have someone running for president with that kind of a cloud over his head."
Trump was highly critical of the Obama administration in its dealings with ISIS, what he called weakening of the military, handling of the Veterans Administration problems and with the nuclear deal with Iran.
"We're going to knock the s--- out of ISIS," he said.
Under Obama, Trump said, the U.S. has a weak military that is unprepared to deal with the risks in the world.
"When I'm president, our military will be bigger and better and stronger than ever before. No one's going to mess with us," he said.
Of the nuclear deal with Iran, Trump said, "Iran's getting $150 billion and we don't even get our prisoners back. We should have said at the beginning of negotiations we want our prisoners back. If they say no, we get up and leave. Then we double the sanctions against them."
He said in that scenario the U.S. would get the prisoners back and would return to the negotiations. "Then we tell them they're not getting the $150 billion because we don't have it," said Trump.
He defended his plan to build a wall along the southern border and his plan to temporarily ban immigrants from coming into this country. Trump said the idea that terrorists' families are not aware of the terrorist activities is "b-------."
On domestic matters, Trump said, as a businessman he donated thousands of dollars to many politicians of both parties over the years. "I give to everybody," he said, "and when I call, they kiss my ass."
Trump said in his administration, veterans will get better treatment than they are receiving now. "We have illegal immigrants who are being treated better than our vets," he said.
Trump was also highly critical of U.S. trade policies and said China's leaders are smarter than U.S. leaders and that "Mexico is going to be the next China."
He leveled his usual criticism of the media. Pointing to the press gallery in the back of the room, he said, "Those are some of the most seriously dishonest people in the world."
Regarding his campaign, Trump said, "If we win in Iowa, we get the ball rolling. What we have going is a movement. What we have used to be called a silent majority. I call it a noisy majority," he said, to which the crowd roared.
"Before this country goes to hell, we better get it away from the politicians," he said.
Spectators had mixed views on Trump's presentation.
"What about ethanol?," said Gary Zwiefel of Titonka. "I drove all the way over here and didn't hear a word about the farm economy."
But Terry Reams of Mason City, who in the past has raised concerns about the Veterans Administration, said, "Trump has my full support — he has from the beginning."
Mary Jane Porter of Mason City represented another faction of the audience. "I'm here as a die-hard observer," she said.
Although protesters have been a regular occurrence at Trump events, there were none in sight in Clear Lake Saturday, inside or outside the Surf.