President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says ‘Failing New York Times’ should be held ‘fully accountable’ over Russia report Trump says ‘Failing New York Times’ should be held ‘fully accountable’ over Russia report Trump tweets ICE will begin removing ‘millions’ of undocumented migrants MORE kicked off his 2020 campaign with a rally at the 20,000-seat Amway Center in Orlando, Fla. on Tuesday night.
Here are five takeaways from his speech.
Meet the new Trump, same as the old Trump
Trump’s campaign billed the rally as the official beginning of his reelection bid, but it was easy to mistake it for any one of the many other rallies he’s held over the past two-and-a-half years.
Trump appeared to be more interested in airing grievances with familiar enemies, such as Democrats, the political establishment, former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have ‘no choice’ but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have ‘no choice’ but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE and the “fake news media” — whom he accused of putting him “under siege” — rather than touting his accomplishments and laying out a second-term agenda, as would be typical for an incumbent president.
For the first half-hour of his remarks, the president argued that life would get even worse if he loses next year, accusing his opponents “of un-American conduct” and claiming Democrats “want to destroy you and our country as we know it.”
It was not until an hour into his speech that he began speaking in depth about the economy, which political strategists argue is his core strength entering the race. It stood in stark contrast to his predecessors, many of whom have campaigned by echoing former President Ronald Reagan’s line about whether voters are better off than they were four years ago.
The dark themes were reminiscent of the 2016 campaign, a sign that he is interested in running the same kind of campaign that engineered his surprise victory. But Trump could face challenges in controlling the debate and keeping his supporters motivated if he sticks with the same message for the next year-and-a-half.
Trump will cast Democrats as socialists and extremists
On everything from abortion rights to immigration, Trump plans to cast Democrats as far-left extremists, oftentimes in harsh terms.
Trump warned on Tuesday that Democrats had become “depraved” on the matter of border security, arguing that “the Democrat position on open borders is morally reprehensible” and a “betrayal of the American middle class.”
The president also seized on the abortion debate that ignited when Alabama passed one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the country, saying that “virtually every top Democrat” supports “ripping babies straight from the mothers’ womb.” That fight is certain to energize the president’s base of evangelical supporters.
And regardless of their thoughts on socialism, Trump plans to paint the entire 2020 Democratic field as the enemies of capitalism and the American way of life.
Of the 2020 presidential contenders, only Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump hits polling on Fox News: ‘Something weird going on at Fox’ Trump hits polling on Fox News: ‘Something weird going on at Fox’ 2020 Democrats look to cut into Biden’s lead with black voters MORE (I-Vt.) has openly embraced socialism. Most of the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders are eager to separate the party’s progressive policy proposals, such as “Medicare for All” and the Green New Deal, from the debate over socialism.
Nonetheless, Trump’s approach is an attempt to set himself up as a populist fighter against political elites and an “angry, left-wing mob.”
“They went after my family, my business, my employees, almost everyone that I’ve ever known or worked with, but they’re really going after you,” the president told the crowd.
Trump (mostly) holds fire on individual 2020 Dems
While the president spent much of his speech excoriating the Democratic Party, he largely avoided attacking his possible challengers.
During one 30-minute stretch of his remarks, Trump mentioned 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBroadway play ‘Hillary and Clinton’ closing early due to low ticket sales Broadway play ‘Hillary and Clinton’ closing early due to low ticket sales Facing challenge from Warren, Sanders touts strength against Trump MORE seven times even though she will not be on the ballot this time.
The president by comparison mentioned former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump hits polling on Fox News: ‘Something weird going on at Fox’ Trump hits polling on Fox News: ‘Something weird going on at Fox’ 2020 Democrats look to cut into Biden’s lead with black voters MORE, the Democratic front-runner, just twice and Sanders only once. Trump called Biden a “sleepy guy” but stuck to hitting him over his handling of China and manufacturing during the Obama administration and did not wade into other personal attacks. He also hit Sanders to drive home his argument about socialism.
Trump’s performance should please his advisers, who want him to paint Democrats with a broad brush, rather than get drawn into individual fights at this stage of the race.
But it appears unlikely that will hold: the president is reportedly planning to live tweet next week during the Democrats’ first primary debate.
Little talk of agenda
Trump barely scratched the surface when it comes to explaining to voters what he would do if they give him four more years in the White House.
The president touched on the unfinished business looming over his reelection race: his long-promised border wall and a new health care plan. But he offered few details about how he plans to get each accomplished.
He also paid lip service to the immigration plan he rolled out last month, but which has not gained traction on Capitol Hill.
He also appeared indifferent about striking a trade deal with China, saying he is fine with talks falling through, perhaps in an effort to show his base he will stay tough on Beijing.
While Trump may plan to argue voters should keep him in office as a good steward of the economy, the gaps in his agenda could open him up to attacks from Democrats that he does not have a plan to address issues like health care and the wage gap.
Trump wants to take on the very establishment he’s part of
Is it possible for an incumbent president in charge of one-third of the federal government to run as a Washington outsider?
Trump is going to find out.
Over the course of his speech, the president railed against the “unholy alliance” of lobbyists and special interests, and warned that nefarious entities in “Washington back rooms” want to “take away your dignity.”
Trump complained about the “rigged system” he said was blocking him from achieving his goals, and said the “swamp is fighting back so viciously and violently against him.”
“The people trying to stop our movement are the same Washington insiders who spent their careers rigging the system so your losses will be their gains, you know that,” Trump said. “These are the same career politicians who presided over decades of lost wages, the loss of our manufacturing jobs …a growing wealth gap and one ruinous trade deal after another.”
The president will have a hard time convincing Washington insiders that his administration has been a breath of fresh air for government accountability. Countless administration officials have been forced out, or even indicted, for the type of conflicts of interest or scandals that Trump is railing against.
But still, there is a sense among Trump’s supporters that they delivered a blow to the establishment when they helped elect Trump.
On Tuesday night, the president leaned into the grievances his supporters hold against the Washington political and media elites, whom he accuses of looking down their noses at ordinary Americans.
“The called us deplorables. That was a mistake. That was a big mistake,” Trump said.
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