The snow fell slowly, in huge clusters of flakes, the wind barely there. Robie's General Store in Hookset was John Kasich's Arcadian backdrop for his final campaign event before the New Hampshire primary.

Kasich beamed. It was a beautiful scene. The cinematic perfection wasn't lost on the candidate, who turned to everyone around him, including us reporters, and said, "Isn't this great? Don't you love this?"

For a moment, the thought crossed my mind: Is Kasich running to win, or is he running to run? I realized I was trying to read minds, and so I set that thought aside.

These days, though, it's hard to suppress the same idea about a different candidate: Is Donald Trump running to win the White House, or is he running to hear the applause of crowds?

Donald Trump this week canceled events in swing states of Colorado and Nevada, but is proceeding with rallies in Texas and Mississippi (along with a Florida rally). Most of the swing-state work goes to his running mate, Mike Pence, who on Tuesday and Wednesday has two events in Pennsylvania and two in North Carolina.

This doesn't make much sense if you look at it from the perspective of someone trying to win an election. It does suggest a man who values crowd approval above all else.

Trump has cited crowd size and enthusiasm as a reason to doubt the polls, which show him losing badly. In June, when pro-Trump radio host Mike Gallagher said "the tide is going to turn," Trump replied: "I really feel it, Mike. I go to Ohio, we were there two days ago, and Pennsylvania and near Pittsburgh and we — I was in West Virginia, the crowds are massive. And you know, I walked out of one, and I said, 'I don't see how I'm not leading."

Trump even uses crowd reaction as a substitute for accuracy when justifying his own rhetoric. When pro-Trump Republican radio host Hugh Hewitt asked Trump if by calling President Obama the "founder," of ISIS, Trump was making a "mistake," Trump had a telling response.

"No, it's no mistake," Trump answered. "Everyone's liking it. I think they're liking it."

For Trump, the crowd is the measure of all things.

"Trump has this narcissistic need to please the immediate crowd," conservative critic Matt Lewis said on CNN this summer, "which comes at the expense of ... staying on script."

Trump's need for adoration can also help explain Trump's television schedule since the conventions. Since Aug. 1, Trump has appeared 11 times on Fox News and Fox Business, and zero times on any other network, Huffington Post reported on Aug. 22. One explanation is that his new campaign staff explained to him that he is unable to intelligently handle adversarial press and so should avoid it. Another, non-exclusive explanation, is that a major motivator for Trump's run is engaging in flattering interviews with the likes of Sean Hannity.

If Lewis is correct, Trump has been captured by his audience. He feels compelled to say what they want to hear. That helps explain why he seems more likely than the average candidate to tell different audiences different things.

After campaigning primarily on immigration, railing against opponents who would grant any path to legality to illegal immigrants, Trump this week reportedly told one crowd he was open to finding a way to accommodate the 11 million in this country illegally. The crowd: his Hispanic advisory council.

When Trump went to Iowa he sucked up to the ethanol lobby, assuming that that's what GOP voters in the corn-dominated state wanted to hear.

Much of Trump's campaign has been inexplicable if you view him as a candidate running to win. His actions often make more sense if you view him as a man seeking the adulation of the crowds.

That bit of psychoanalysis can explain why Trump ran in the first place. If you craved large crowds cheering for you day after day, what would you do? You could learn to play the guitar really well. Or, if you're already a reality TV star (where the crowds are separated from you by both time and space) you can launch a populist campaign for president, and fill arenas day after day in every state.

Again, this is mind-reading. Just like my speculation on Kasich back in February, my read on Trump may be wrong. But it could be that America is witnessing one giant effort by an insecure man to feel loved.

Timothy P. Carney, the Washington Examiner's senior political columnist, can be contacted at His column appears Tuesday and Thursday nights on