It’s been a strange week for Trump. On Monday, he lost Iowa, which nearly every poll predicted he would win. That night, as he conceded victory to Ted Cruz, he gave a very uncharacteristic speech: It was short, gracious, and even a little humble. He tried to reposition himself as the underdog who no one thought had a chance, which conveniently ignored the fact that he had been at the top of the polls for many months.
That quickly changed because of course it did—we’re talking about Trump here. Although he continued to play the underdog card, he started lashing out on Tuesday. He characterized Cruz’s victory in Iowa as illegitimate, accusing his campaign of fraud (sending out emails and voicemails telling voters that Ben Carson had dropped out of the race) and criminal activity (the gross Voter Violation mailer). Trump spent the rest of the week oscillating between being petulant and oddly muted. At some of his campaign stops, he sounded more like a conventional politician than at any other period of his run.
So which Trump shows up tonight? He clearly realizes that skipping the last Republican debate was a mistake, so it’s possible that he’ll come out at swinging at Cruz and poor Jeb! to make up for lost time. But it’s also possible that we’ll see another side of Trump—a more subdued, bitter performance from a candidate trying to determine where he stands in a crowded field.