Trump rallies support for gubernatorial hopeful in Tampa

President calls Republican candidate 'tough, brilliant cookie'

TAMPA, Fla. - Wading into Florida Republican politics and a competitive primary, President Donald Trump on Tuesday delivered a hearty endorsement for Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis.

At a rally in Tampa, Trump praised DeSantis as "a tough, brilliant cookie" and predicted a win in his race against Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the state's Aug. 28 Republican primary.

Trump also railed against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who is being challenged by Trump ally Gov. Rick Scott in a high-profile Senate race.

Trump, who has maintained a steady presence in the state, said the only time he sees Nelson is "five months before every election."

"After a while, you forget who's the senator," Trump said, adding that he wants to make sure Scott "wins and wins big."

Scott didn't joined Trump at the rally but appeared with him at an earlier roundtable event.

Trump's arrival in Florida underscored the larger-than-life presence he has wielded in Republican primaries ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, capable of influencing the outcomes of primaries with a single tweet.

With sky-high approval ratings among Republican voters, the president has injected himself into several recent GOP primaries, helping candidates in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina with endorsements that have helped set the stage for the fall elections.

Florida represented a crucial triumph for Trump in the 2016 presidential election, and the president has maintained a steady presence in the state, returning frequently to his winter home in Palm Beach.

Appearing at a technical school in Tampa, Trump praised the strength of the economy, telling students and faculty members there was never a better time to learn new skills and gain employment. He was joined by Scott, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump and several members of Congress from Florida.

DeSantis has tied his campaign for governor directly to Trump, appearing on Fox News more than 100 times to talk about federal issues and defend the president. DeSantis has campaigned with Fox's Sean Hannity and Donald Trump Jr. and uses humor in a new ad to show his alliance with the president, teaching one of his two children to "build the wall" with blocks.

Putnam, a state agriculture commissioner and former congressman, has run a more traditional campaign for governor, barnstorming the state with campaign events aimed at building upon his family's deep ties to the state.

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