President Donald Trump has sought to reassure his supporters about the state of the US economy despite the stock market volatility, telling people at a rally in New Hampshire that their financial security depended on his re-election.
“Whether you love me or hate me you have to vote for me,” he said.
Speaking to a boisterous crowd at Southern New Hampshire University, Mr Trump dismissed the heightened fears about the US economy and a 3% drop on Wednesday in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which was fuelled by a slowing global economy and a development in the bond market that has predicted previous recessions.
Avoiding an economic slump is critical to Mr Trump’s re-election hopes.
“The United States right now has the hottest economy anywhere in the world,” he said.
Mr Trump, who reached the White House by promising to bring about a historic economic boom, claimed, as he often does, that the markets would have crashed if he had lost his 2016 bid for the presidency.
And he warned that if he is defeated in 2020, Americans’ 401(k) retirement accounts will go “down the tubes”.
The president also defended his tactics on trade with China.
He has imposed 25% tariffs on 250 billion US dollars (£207 billion) of imports from China and has threatened to hit the remaining 300 billion dollars-worth (£248 billion) of Chinese imports with 10% tariffs.
He has delayed that increase on about half of those items to avoid raising prices for US holiday shoppers.
He said China wanted to make a trade deal with the US because it was costing the country millions of jobs, but claimed that the US did not need to be in a hurry.
“I don’t think we’re ready to make a deal,” Mr Trump said.
The president’s rally was the first since mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, killed 31 people and wounded dozens more.
The shootings have reignited calls for Congress to take immediate action to reduce gun violence.
Mr Trump said the US could not make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to protect themselves, but he advocated for expanding the number of facilities to house the mentally ill without saying how he would pay for it.
“We will be taking mentally deranged and dangerous people off of the streets so we won’t have to worry so much about them,” he said. “We don’t have those institutions anymore, and people can’t get proper care. There are seriously ill people and they’re on the streets.”
Along with discussion of the economy and guns, Mr Trump hit a number of other topics, accusing the European Union of being “worse than China, just smaller”; bragging about his 2016 electoral victories in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania; and calling it a “disgrace” that people were throwing water on police officers in New York.
The rally was interrupted about a half an hour in by a handful of protesters near the rafters of the arena.
As the protesters were being led out, a Trump supporter wearing a Trump 2020 shirt near them began enthusiastically shaking his fist in a sign of support for the president.
But the president mistook him for one of the protesters and said to the crowd: “That guy’s got a serious weight problem. Go home. Start exercising. Get him out of here, please.”
After a pause, he added, “Got a bigger problem than I do.”