President Donald Trump formally launched his 2020 re-election campaign on Tuesday by presenting himself as the same political insurgent who shook up the Washington.
At a packed rally at an arena in Orlando, Florida, Trump made clear he would run for re-election as an outsider, just as he did in 2016. Whether he can pull it off remains far from certain as Trump has been in office now for 2-1/2 years.
He revisited campaign themes from four years ago, decrying illegal immigration, the news media and his 2016 Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
“Together we stared down a broken political establishment and we restored government by and for the people,” Trump said. “As long as you keep this team in place, we have a tremendous way to go. Our future has never looked brighter or sharper.”
Trump accused Democrats of trying to “destroy our country” as he officially kicked off his re-election campaign.
“Our radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice and rage,” he said, pointing to House efforts to investigate his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia and possible obstruction of justice by the president. “They want to destroy you and they want to destroy our country as we know it. Not acceptable, it’s not going to happen. Not going to happen.”
The federal Russia probes aren’t just an attack on him, he told the crowd — “they are really going after you … They tried to erase your vote, erase your legacy of the greatest campaign and the greatest election probably in the history of our country.”
Two dozen Democrats are competing for their party’s nomination to face off against Trump in the November 2020 election.
Many of the top Democrats lead Trump in opinion polls in battleground states.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll on June 11 gave Trump a 40% job approval rating, compared with 57% who disapproved. Other opinion polls have shown him running consistently behind his main Democratic challengers, such as Biden.
‘I will never ever let you down’
But in the political version of a revival meeting, Trump stuck mostly to familiar rounds of call and response.
“Tonight I stand before you to officially launch my campaign for a second term as president of the United States,” Trump said. “I promise you I will never ever let you down.”
One after another, he delivered familiar applause lines designed to induce chants — “build the wall,” “CNN sucks” and “lock her up” among them — that have been mainstays of his campaign rallies for four years now.
The tenor of Trump’s remarks wasn’t a huge surprise to observers. His strategy for re-election, say allies, isn’t based on persuading a significant share of the majority of Americans who disapprove of his job performance to vote for him. Rather, he’s trying to super-charge his fans with enough energy that they show up in force for him and spread the word to their friends and neighbors.
That goal was evident in his decision to aim a message directly at his base during an appearance in Orlando, which sits at the heart of Florida’s I-4 corridor. The region is a traditional swing area in a swing state that is crucial to Trump’s fate, and his answer to that challenge was pumping up his existing supporters rather than reaching out across the political divide.
Democrats cite a string of broken promises in Trump’s first term, from lowering drug prices to closing corporate tax loopholes and stopping plant closures.
“Donald Trump is launching his campaign for re-election tonight and the American people face a choice – we can make Trump an aberration or let him fundamentally and forever alter the character of this nation,” said Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager for Democratic front-runner Joe Biden.
Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., a leader of the moderate Blue Dog Democrats who represents a neighboring district, said Trump came to the right place, and that her party will have to find the right mix of swing voter outreach and base Democratic enthusiasm to defeat him.
“President Trump is strategic to target central Florida in his re-election campaign,” Murphy told NBC News. “In order for Democrats to win statewide, we need to recognize the complexities of our Democratic base, while also developing a strategic, well-funded, and well-organized effort to persuade voters, especially independent voters in central Florida.”
‘Radical left-wing mob’
Trump called his opponents a “radical left-wing mob” who would bring socialism to the United States.
“A vote for any Democrat in 2020 is a vote for the rise of radical socialism and the destruction of the American dream,” he said.
Murphy, who has been vocal in her criticism of the handful of her colleagues who embrace “Democratic socialism,” said her party is in peril of helping Trump win a second term.
“National Democrats need to realize that what may be good politics in the Bronx or California can backfire in states like Florida,” she said. “Simply put, if we want to beat Donald Trump, we must put winning over political purity.”
The biggest wrinkle was the voice vote Trump held on whether to maintain his old slogan “Make America Great Again” or change it to “Keep America Great.”
“Keep America Great” won by a vocal landslide.
And then Trump told the crowd what it had come to hear.
“We will keep it so great, better than ever before. We’re going to keep it better than ever before. And that is why tonight I stand before you to officially launch my campaign for a second time as president of the United States.”