TAMPA, Fla. (CN) – Donald Trump made his first public visit to Tampa as president on Tuesday, holding a raucous rally that touched on his economic accomplishments and the nation’s hot-button issues, while claiming that people needed ID to buy groceries.
Trump held the rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds ostensibly to support Republican gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. But the president used most of his hour-long speech to tout a robust economy and job growth, while attacking his old foes: fake news, NATO and Nancy Pelosi.
“The days of plundering American jobs and American wealth are over,” Trump told a near-capacity crowd. “America first!”
With the exception of a lone protester at the beginning of the president’s speech, attendees, many of whom wore their red and white “Make America Great Again” hats, followed Trump’s words with cheers and applause.
“We’re setting records like never before,” Trump told the crowd. “There’s 3.7 million new jobs. The African-American employment rate is the lowest level in history.”
He went on to say Hispanics and Asians also have the lowest levels of unemployment in history.
“Sorry about this, women,” he continued, “the unemployment rate for women is the lowest in 65 years. It’ll be history soon, just give us a few more weeks.”
The president also pointed to a proposed $240 million steel mill in Florida to be built by the steel manufacturer Nucor before attacking Democrats over illegal immigration.
“Their new platform, what they want to do, is abolish ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement],” he said to jeers from the crowd. “They want to let MS-13 in. We’re not going to let that happen.”
“In some cases, Democrats want to give illegal immigrants the right to vote,” he said. “We believe only American citizens should vote in American elections. That’s why the time has come for voter ID.”
“You go out and you want to buy groceries, you want to go out and buy anything you need ID and your picture,” he continued. “The only time you don’t need your ID is when you want to vote.”
Trump peppered his speech with references to DeSantis and current Florida Gov. Rick Scott, and urged attendees to vote Republican.
Trump endorsed DeSantis over his primary opponent Adam Putnam, the current agriculture commissioner, in June.
DeSantis, a three-term congressman representing the state’s Palm Coast, wasted no time releasing TV ads trumpeting the endorsement. His latest, narrated by his wife, shows the congressman and his daughter building a wall out of toy blocks in their living room and reading Trump’s book “Art of the Deal” to his son at bedtime.
DeSantis is considered a tea party conservative, who first won election to the U.S. House in 2012. He regularly appears on Fox News as a guest pundit.
Putnam, a native Floridian once considered the front runner, has trailed in polls since the endorsement. Trump’s endorsements seem to hold sway in recent Republican primaries in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama.
Florida holds its primary on Aug. 28.
“Florida is going in the right direction and we need to keep it going and build upon it,” DeSantis told the crowd after a brief introduction by Trump. “We can’t go back to the days of Charlie Crist where the good ol’ boys run the show.”
In his remarks, Trump called DeSantis “your next governor” and also called on the crowd to vote for Scott, who is running against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
“You know, I spend a lot of time in Florida,” Trump said. “The only time I see Bill Nelson is five months before an election.”
After attacking Nelson, Trump implored the audience to vote Republican and ticked off his accomplishments in the last 17 months.
Earlier in the day, Trump visited a vocational technical high school to sign a $1 billion appropriations bill for technical education grants. Scott attended the event with him.
Scott did not attend the evening rally, opting instead for a fundraiser nearby.
Trump oscillated between several red meat issues for his base, from the NFL protests during the national anthem to privatizing care for veterans. He extolled the virtues of farmers and insisted recent tariffs will pay off in the end. He praised Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on his work returning the remains of servicemen from North Korea. He even touched on Christmas.
“Remember the attack on ‘Merry Christmas’?” he asked the crowd. “They aren’t attacking it anymore. They say, ‘Merry Christmas.’ And that is all because of our campaign.”