Donald Trump spoke during a campaign event aboard the USS Iowa battleship Tuesday.

Donald Trump spoke during a campaign event aboard the USS Iowa battleship Tuesday. Kevork Djansezian/AP

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The 2016 Republican presidential candidate was long on promises, but light on specifics, as he called for a stronger military and better veterans care.

PORT OF LOS ANGELES—Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial front-run­ner Don­ald Trump used the back­drop of the massive guns of a World War II battle­ship Tues­day even­ing to prom­ise a stronger mil­it­ary and bet­ter care for vet­er­ans.

“We’re go­ing to make our mil­it­ary so big and so strong and so great,” he said to loud cheers from the sev­er­al hun­dred as­sembled on deck, many of whom had paid the spon­sor­ing Vet­er­ans for a Strong Amer­ica $100 each for a tick­et. “And it will be so power­ful that I don’t think we’re ever go­ing to have to use it. Nobody’s go­ing to mess with us.”

Apart from a prom­ise that vet­er­ans who could not re­ceive quick at­ten­tion at a Vet­er­ans Af­fairs clin­ic or hos­pit­al would be able to go to a private doc­tor, Trump offered no spe­cif­ics about the mil­it­ary, vet­er­ans, or any oth­er is­sue. In­stead he kept to his gen­er­al cam­paign theme of boast­ing of his skills as a busi­ness­man and ne­go­ti­at­or, along with a prom­ise to end il­leg­al im­mig­ra­tion across the south­ern bor­der.

“We’re go­ing to build a wall,” he said from the aft deck of the USS Iowa, which is now a float­ing mu­seum. “And Mex­ico is go­ing to pay for that wall.”

Trump has equated his years at a mil­it­ary school with ac­tu­al mil­it­ary ser­vice and dis­paraged Vi­et­nam War pris­on­er of war John Mc­Cain for hav­ing been cap­tured in the first place while Trump avoided that war thanks to de­fer­ments. He has non­ethe­less climbed to the top of the 2016 Re­pub­lic­an polls.

The Iowa is berthed at San Pedro, a work­ing-class com­munity with a large Mex­ic­an-Amer­ic­an pop­u­la­tion. Trump has not been pop­u­lar there be­cause of his re­cent state­ments about Mex­ic­ans and il­leg­al im­mig­rants, and a few hun­dred pro­test­ers chanted with­in clear earshot of the ship’s deck as Trump gave his speech.

Some Re­pub­lic­an Party lead­ers worry that Trump’s tone could un­der­mine the party’s ef­forts to im­prove re­la­tions with Latino voters head­ing in­to the 2016 gen­er­al elec­tion. In 2012, Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ee Mitt Rom­ney re­ceived only 27 per­cent of the His­pan­ic vote. Il­leg­al im­mig­ra­tion was also a key is­sue in the course of the Re­pub­lic­an primar­ies that year, and Rom­ney at one point sug­ges­ted that those un­law­fully in this coun­try should “self-de­port.”

Trump and 10 oth­er GOP can­did­ates will par­ti­cip­ate in a prime-time de­bate at the Re­agan Lib­rary in Simi Val­ley Wed­nes­day even­ing. The re­main­ing four can­did­ates who are ranked lower in the polls are par­ti­cip­at­ing in their own de­bate im­me­di­ately pri­or to the main event.