Trump kicks off 2020 campaign using the same approach that worked in 2016
Jabbing at the press and poking at the political establishment, Donald Trump officially kicked off his re-election campaign Tuesday at a Florida rally where he exhorted thousands of rollicking supporters to keep advancing his political movement to put America's "own citizens first."
At the Amway Center in Orlando, Trump reminisced about his 2016 campaign, describing it is as a "great political movement" and "a defining moment in American history."
And he said he had fundamentally upended Washington, staring down "a corrupt and broken political establishment" and restoring a government "of, for and by the people."
Vice-President Mike Pence offered a more direct pitch in his speech before Trump took the stage.
"We're here for one reason and reason only: America needs four more years of President Donald Trump," he said, prompting a "Four more years!" chant.
"It's on," Pence said. "Time for Round 2."
Of course, Trump never really stopped running. He officially filed for re-election on Jan. 20, 2017, the day of his inauguration, and held his first 2020 rally in February 2017, in nearby Melbourne, Fla.
He has continued holding his signature "Make America Great Again" rallies in the months since, while also raising millions of dollars to fund a more professional, far larger campaign operation, with about 80 staffers now working at the campaign's Virginia headquarters, in New York and in key states across the country.
Despite his perch in the White House, Trump is hoping to replicate the dynamics that allowed him to capture the Republican Party and then the presidency in 2016 as an insurgent intent on disrupting the status quo.
But any president is inherently an insider. Trump has worked in the White House for 2 ½ years, travels the skies in Air Force One and changes the course of history with the stroke of a pen or the post of a tweet.
"We're taking on the failed political establishment and restoring government of, by and for the people," Trump said in a video released by his campaign Monday.
That populist clarion was a central theme of his maiden political adventure, as the businessman-turned-candidate successfully appealed to disaffected voters who felt left behind by economic dislocation and demographic shifts. And he has no intention of abandoning it, even if he is the face of the institutions he looks to disrupt.
He underscored that on the eve of the rally in the must-win swing state of Florida, returning to the hard-line immigration themes of his first campaign by tweeting that, next week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement "will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States."
That promise, which came with no details and sparked Democratic condemnation, seemed to offer a peek into a campaign that might largely be fought along the same lines as his first bid, with very few new policy proposals for a second term.
Early Democratic front-runner Joe Biden said Tuesday that Trump's politics are "all about dividing us" in ways that are "dangerous — truly, truly dangerous."
His deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said in a statement that the country "cannot afford four more years of Trump."
But those involved in the president's re-election effort believe that his brash version of populism, combined with his mantra to "Drain the Swamp," still resonates, despite his administration's cozy ties with lobbyists and corporations and the Trump family's apparent efforts to profit off the presidency.
Advisers believe that, in an age of extreme polarization, many Trump backers view their support for the president as part of their identity, one not easily shaken. They point to his seemingly unmovable support with his base supporters as evidence that, despite more than two years in office, he is still viewed the same way he was as a candidate: the bomb-throwing political rebel.