President Donald Trump officially announced his campaign for re-election on Tuesday, delivering a speech thick with grievance in which he warned of a dark future for America if his opponents win in 2020.
“Imagine having a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress in 2020,” he said at a political rally in Orlando, Florida.
“They would shut down your free speech. Use the power of the law to punish their opponents, which they’re trying to do now anyway,” Trump said. “They would strip Americans of their constitutional rights while flooding the country with illegal immigrants in the hope it will expand their political base.”
Thousands of Trump’s supporters gathered outside Orlando’s Amway Center on Tuesday before the speech for an event his campaign billed as “45 Fest.” Rain turned the scene into a swampy field of wet sand and mud puddles littered with abandoned coolers. Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale, other campaign officials and some of his family including his son Eric Trump addressed the crowd from a stage before the rally.
Campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said there were 1,200 requests for media credentials, eight times the usual number for a Trump rally.
“Tonight I stand before you to officially launch my campaign for a second term as president of the United States,” Trump said, more than 40 minutes into his speech.
Trump starts his campaign with a strong economy, the advantage of incumbency and a stable of wealthy donors — assets that historically predict a second term. Yet the controversies and hard-right agenda of his first term have left his approval rating hovering around 40% and roused a fury on the left that may translate into unusually strong voter turnout in 2020.
The president, in turn, made clear that he seeks to turn out his base with appeals to their fear of immigrants and their hostility toward Washington and the Democratic Party.
“Those who don’t like him really don’t like him — and he hasn’t done much to reach out to those opposed to him,” said Republican pollster Frank Luntz. “But those who liked him love him today.”
He complained again about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the potential involvement of Trump’s campaign, describing the probe as a Democratic plot to “subvert our democracy.”
“This election is a verdict on whether we want to live in a country where the people who lose an election refuse to concede and spend the next two years trying to shred our constitution and rip your country apart,” Trump said.
Trump’s campaign has sought to win him full credit for the strength of the U.S. economy and promote the message that the president has stayed true to his campaign promises on issues ranging from immigration to tearing up international deals on climate change and Iran’s nuclear program.
“You may not like it, but he has done everything he said he was going to do,” said David Urban, a senior adviser to his 2016 campaign who remains close to the president. “There is still a lot of work to be done, but that is the case to be made to give him a second term. Let him finish those things up.”
Trump said that the U.S. “is now thriving, prospering and booming, and frankly it’s soaring to incredible new heights. Our economy is the envy of the world, perhaps the greatest economy we’ve had in the history of our country.
“As long as you keep this team in place we have a tremendous way to go,” he said.
Immigration remains one of the most polarizing issues of Trump’s presidency. In polling of swing voters, it is either the top reason for supporting him or the number one reason for opposing him, one White House adviser said. Trump made immigration central to the 2018 congressional midterm elections, despite misgivings by others in his party; Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives.
For all of Trump’s rhetoric about keeping his campaign promises, his signature pledge — to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico — remains mostly unfulfilled. Trump is aware of that shortcoming and agitated by it, one adviser said.