- President Donald Trump officially kicked off his re-election campaign with a raucous rally Tuesday night in Orlando, Florida.
- Trump’s stump speech conspicuously lacked concrete policy rollouts or a 2020 agenda, and it focused instead on excoriating the president’s perceived enemies in the media, the Democratic party, and the intelligence community.
- Tuesday’s rally comes after a rocky few weeks for the White House. Trump ignited a firestorm last week when he said he might entertain an offer of political dirt on an opponent from a foreign power.
- He’s also on the defensive after reports surfaced that internal campaign polling data shows Trump losing to former Vice President and 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden in key states.
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ORLANDO – President Donald Trump kicked off his re-election campaign Tuesday night by excoriating the press, mocking Democrats, and running through the highlights of his presidency on issues like tax reform, the economy, and deregulation.
While the speech struck a chord with supporters packed into the arena, it conspicuously lacked any new policy rollouts or an agenda for a second term.
A few minutes into the speech, the president tested the slogan for his 2020 campaign – “Keep America Great” – to the roaring crowd and rattled off many familiar grievances against his perceived enemies.
While railing against the FBI’s Russia investigation and the former special counsel Robert Mueller, Trump declared, “No president should ever have to go through this again … our patriotic movement has been under assault from the very first day.”
He went on to falsely claim that he still accomplished “more than any other president has in the first two years of a presidency, and under circumstances that no president has had to deal with before.”
He also insisted Mueller had exonerated him of any wrongdoing and that Democrats now want “a do-over.” (Mueller’s team specified that its report “does not exonerate” the president and indicated that it was up to Congress to investigate further.)
“They tried to take away your dignity and your destiny,” Trump told the enthusiastic audience. “But we will never let them do that, will we? They tried to erase your vote, erase your legacy of the greatest campaign, probably the greatest election in the history of our country.”
As he often has in the past, the president later threw the spotlight on his 2016 presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, prompting supporters to break into chants of, “Lock her up!”
Trump also attacked the news media and reporters covering the rally. And while he spent some time ripping former vice president Joe Biden – the 2020 Democratic frontrunner – Trump didn’t call out any other 2020 campaign rivals and instead chose to focus on his own record.
He dedicated a significant portion of his speech to extolling the breakneck pace at which his administration has had conservative judges appointed to the bench. He also praised Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and slammed Democrats for stalling Kavanaugh’s confirmation last year following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.
Trump has prioritized nominating anti-abortion judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade, and the issue is a big deal to many conservative voters.
Charrife Lane, a 20-year-old African-American college student who attended the rally, told INSIDER that being “pro-life is a big issue to me.”
“It’s hard to support someone who is not pro-life,” she said. “Because first of all, when you’re dealing with Planned Parenthood, the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Singer, I believe that she was a racist. So I will not support someone who stands for abortion … And I believe that because [Trump] is being pro-life on that, that’s why I support him.”
For other voters, Trump’s hardline stance on immigration is a big selling point.
19-year-old Mihir Khedkar lives in New York City but is originally from Jacksonville, Florida. He attended Tuesday’s rally and told INSIDER his parents immigrated to the US from India.
“My parents are immigrants, it took them 20 years to get citizenship,” Khedkar said. “So I think that coming in the legal way in the right way is the right way to go.”
Trump’s re-election rally follows a rocky few weeks for the White House. Trump sparked backlash when he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos last week that he would consider entertaining an offer of political dirt on an opponent from a foreign power, and that he’d alert the FBI only if the information he got was “incorrect” or “bad.”
The president was also on the defensive after reports surfaced that internal campaign polling data showed him losing to Biden in key states by significant margins and carrying just a two-point lead over the former vice president in deep-red Texas. Trump denied that such data existed, but his own campaign manager, Brad Parscale, confirmed its authenticity to the media.
Parscale added, though, that the numbers were from March and therefore did not accurately reflect current support for Trump.
Still, analysts say the numbers don’t look good for the Trump team which, in addition to keeping its core base of supporters, needs to draw more moderate voters to win the 2020 election.