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By John Fritze, The Baltimore Sun (TNS)

LINTHICUM, MD — There were no golden escalators and no paid actors. But even without props, Donald Trump knows how to put on a show.

The billionaire real estate mogul, who entered the race for the GOP presidential nomination this month, told Maryland Republicans in Linthicum on Tuesday night that his background as a negotiator and businessman makes him the most qualified candidate to “take back our jobs,” “take back our money” and “take back our country.”

His visit to Maryland, which had been in the works months before he announced his presidential bid, came as a new Suffolk University poll put Trump in second place in New Hampshire behind former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Trump reacted to the poll’s findings by attacking Bush.

“I can’t believe Bush is in first place. This guy can’t negotiate his way out of a paper bag,” Trump said. “So I’m in second place to Bush? I hate it!”

More than 600 people attended the annual dinner of the state Republican Party, and a GOP official said the event would bring in more than $100,000, money the party plans to use to support candidates in local and state races.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan did not attend the dinner, and several speakers acknowledged his announcement this week that he had been diagnosed with cancer.

The dinner at the BWI Marriott was quieter than Trump’s campaign announcement in New York, when he descended into the crowd on a golden escalator. Still, there was plenty of Trump’s characteristic bombast. He reiterated his opinion that the nation’s current leadership is “stupid” and “desperate,” and he called President Barack Obama “incompetent.”

He focused his remarks on the nuclear negotiations underway with Iran — suggesting the Obama administration appeared “desperate” in the talks with Tehran — but also spent significant time arguing that reporters had taken statements from his announcement speech out of context.

In particular, Trump has been criticized for suggesting Mexican immigrants entering the U.S. are rapists.

Asked about the April riots in Baltimore, Trump said he “loved Baltimore,” but then said the city was afflicted with “killings on an hourly basis, virtually.”

“Baltimore is a very, very special case, and it’s a very sad thing that’s happened,” Trump told reporters. “Baltimore needs jobs and it needs spirit. It’s got no spirit. None.”

(c)2015 The Baltimore Sun. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Gage Skidmore

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.