DES MOINES — Gone were the loud chants of “Lock her up!” and “CNN sucks!” Absent was the dismissive “Get ’em out!” in response to protesters. Hillary Clinton’s name came up only a couple of times in passing.
But there were also some familiar — and controversial — themes. A vow to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. A promise to bring back American jobs shipped abroad and to fight sweeping trade deals. A challenge to the validity of unemployment statistics.
The tone of President-elect Donald Trump’s rally here Thursday night was a departure from many of the raucous events that came to define his campaign. But much of the substance was reminiscent of the pitch he made on the trail.
Speaking inside a sprawling events center here against the backdrop of an American flag and an Iowa flag framed on each side by light-projected rotating circles of blue stars, Trump delivered an address that was partly a thank-you, partly a victory lap and partly a to-do list.
At the start, he was briefly interrupted by protesters. But instead of criticizing them aggressively as he often did as a candidate, he responded with a more subtle jab.
“I think they’re actually on my side. They just don’t know it yet,” he said.
Trump touted the Cabinet he is assembling and defended his decision to stock his team with some wealthy corporate leaders, saying they know how to succeed.
“I want people that made a fortune,” Trump said. “Because now they are negotiating with you, okay? It’s no different than a great baseball player or a great golfer.”
He said that Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, whom he has tapped to head the Environmental Protection Agency, would help “end the EPA intrusion into your lives.”
Trump also brought onstage the man he has tapped to be the next ambassador to China: Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.
“We’re going to have mutual respect. China’s going to benefit, and Terry’s going to benefit,” Trump vowed.
The president-elect also thanked Iowa’s two U.S. senators — Republicans Charles E. Grassley and Joni Ernst.
“We don’t like people that waver, right? Those two didn’t waver,” Trump said. He later said members of the “Never Trump” movement were “on a respirator.”
On jobs and outsourcing, one of his central issues in his campaign, Trump said he has asked for a list of 10 companies that are outsourcing jobs so that he could call them, which he said he enjoys doing.
But the Trump’s family companies profit from low-wage laborers across the world who produce merchandise.
Questioning government-published statistics, Trump claimed that “the unemployment number, as you know, is totally fiction” as he vowed to bring back jobs to the United States.
On immigration, another signature topic, the president-elect promised to “build the wall” and “put an end to illegal immigration and stop the drugs from pouring into our country.”
Lisa Engle of Clive, Iowa, said she thought the speech was “very optimistic” and different from the campaign, in that Trump was not trying to beat any opposition.
Trump barely mentioned Clinton. He said her name as he bragged about his win in Utah, where he noted that a threat from an independent candidate fizzled. At another point, he said that African American turnout for Clinton was not strong.
The Des Moines event was the third stop in Trump's thank-you tour. He also held rallies in North Carolina and Ohio — like Iowa, both states that he won.
Throughout Thursday's event, there were some of the staples of Trump campaign rallies — with some twists.
The usual preshow soundtrack, including “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones and “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys played through the speakers — but at a softer volume than many of the gatherings leading up to the Nov 8 election. While the crowd was substantial, it was smaller and more subdued than many of his rowdy pre-election rallies.
But red “Make America Great Again” caps were still plentiful in the audience. And as it tended to be during the campaign, the attendees were predominantly white.
Outside in the frigid weather, vendors sold shirts and other keepsakes. One man showed off stickers saying President Obama’s last day in office will be Jan. 20.