Trump keeps focus on economic success at Tampa rally
Posted July 31, 2018 5:53 p.m. EDT
Updated July 31, 2018 10:24 p.m. EDT
President Donald Trump bragged about a booming economy, touted his tough actions on international trade and lambasted Democrats for obstructing his agenda on Capitol Hill at a campaign rally Tuesday night in Tampa.
Trump was in Florida to endorse GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis for governor ahead of a late-August primary. Compared with past campaign rallies where he has veered off script, the President remained relatively on message Tuesday night about the economy -- an approach that could give Republicans in competitive races hope as Trump ramps up his political travel schedule ahead of November's midterm elections
He bragged about a soaring stock market, low unemployment rates and a drop in the trade deficit in the most recent quarter, though economists have said that latter figure could be artificially inflated by companies rushing to move products as trade wars on multiple fronts loom.
"The days of plundering American jobs and American wealth -- those days are over," Trump said.
He heaped praise on farmers, who have seen their access to some foreign markets curtailed as a result of retaliatory moves as Trump has sought to reverse a trade deficit with China, renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and restart trade talks with the European Union.
His administration recently announced a $12 billion bailout for farmers hurt by the tariffs triggered by his trade moves.
"I want to thank our farmers. Our farmers are true patriots because China and others have targeted ... our farmers. Not good. Not nice," Trump said. "And you know what our farmers are saying? 'It's OK. We can take it.' These are incredible people."
He also bragged that rural areas were "beautiful, Republican red" in the 2016 election.
Some of Trump's claims about the economy were exaggerated or inaccurate. He said US Steel is opening six new mills. But as a publicly traded company, US Steel is required to announce such changes and so far has not done so.
He also made false claims about the cost of moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump said at times in Tampa that the move cost $140,000 and $400,000.
However, the $400,000 figure was just the cost of security upgrades and a US Embassy plaque ahead of a ceremonial opening in May. The US government is planning to spend $21 million for a second phase of renovations that includes building an addition to the old consular building to accommodate embassy staff. And US officials have not ruled out the possibility of ultimately moving the US Embassy to an entirely different site, where a new embassy would be built.
In Tampa, Trump also alluded to the possibility of a government shutdown at the end of September, saying he "may have to do some pretty drastic things" to get funding for a wall.
"But we're going to get it," he said. "Cause the Democrats are not voting for what we want to do, and they're not voting and allowing our values to take place in our country."
Trump reiterated his calls for laws requiring voters to show photo identification. Largely Democratic critics of such laws say they risk disenfranchising elderly and urban voters who don't drive.
In doing so, he said buying groceries requires an ID.
"You know if you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card. You need ID," Trump said.
The rally came at the beginning of a three-month sprint to the November midterm elections.
Trump is telling aides he wants to considerably step up the number of rallies he is holding, and his team is looking at ways to do just that, a source familiar with the President's thinking said Tuesday.
Trump is annoyed at the probe by special counsel Robert Mueller and concerned that it is allowing his opponents to chip away at his legitimacy as President.
But Trump is also concerned about the outcome of the midterms. He is nervous that the Democrats are going to take the House and stymie his agenda.
The source also said this frame of mind helps explain the President's renewed manic tweeting. "He is in worker mode," the source said.
Because of that, he is reacting as he often does and has his entire career. He is arguing that he must act himself -- that he wants to take things into his own hands, the source said.
However, while Trump could help Republicans in Senate races like North Dakota, Indiana and West Virginia, many of 2018's battlegrounds -- particularly in House races -- are in suburban areas where he is unpopular.
Still, he has been a force in recent weeks in GOP primaries.
Trump's first expressed support for DeSantis in December and more explicitly endorsed him with a tweet in June, launching him past former congressman and Florida agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam in the race to replace two-term GOP Gov. Rick Scott.
DeSantis, whose campaign has featured frequent guest appearances on Fox News, has clung closely to Trump in the campaign.
In a television ad touting Trump's endorsement that is narrated by his wife, DeSantis helps his toddler daughter "build the wall" and reads Trump's "The Art of the Deal" to his infant son. He teaches his daughter to read a "Make America Great Again" Trump sign, and the ad includes a shot of his son in a "Make America Great Again" onesie.
Trump, meanwhile, has seen the importance of his endorsement grow in GOP primaries after Alabama voters ignored him and chose Roy Moore over interim Sen. Luther Strange last year.
Two House candidates he backed -- Katie Arrington in South Carolina and Rep. Martha Roby in a runoff for her seat in Alabama -- both won. Then Trump-backed Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp crushed Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in a Republican gubernatorial primary runoff last week.
Trump vanquished two of Florida's most famous GOP figures -- former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio -- in 2016's GOP presidential primary. Bush had dropped out by the time the Florida primary took place, and Trump won the state with 46% support to Rubio's second-place 27% showing.