US President Donald Trump is expected to officially launch his 2020 re-election campaign on Tuesday evening in front of a large crowd in Orlando, Florida.
The scheduled speech comes amid calls for impeachment, continuing congressional probes into his presidency and administration and deepening divisions over his hard-line immigration policies. But Trump’s announcement also comes as the economy continues to grow and he maintains deep support among his base.
Although Tuesday’s speech is being billed as the official beginning of Trump’s 2020 bid, the businessman-turned-politician filed the paperwork officially announcing his bid within hours of his inauguration on January 20, 2017. He has since held campaign-style rallies throughout the United States.
“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 to mark his relaunch. “It’s the people, you’re the people, you won the election.”
Two-and-a-half years into his tenure, Trump sees plenty of positive factors, led by a growing economy with low unemployment.
“If the economy stays strong, he is very likely to get re-elected,” said Trump confidant Newt Gingrich, a former Republican speaker of the US House of Representatives.
But Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, coupled with a presidential style marked by name-calling and eye-popping tweets, has undermined some Americans’ confidence in Trump before the November 2020 election.
Peek into this campaign
He also has stirred division with his hard-line policies on immigration and unsettled business and farm groups with his use of tariffs in trade disputes with China and some allies.
As he left the White House on Tuesday for Florida, Trump said that a mass roundup of undocumented immigrants would start next week. He did not elaborate, and rights groups and Democrats have accused the president of sowing fear ahead of his re-election launch.
Analysts say the rhetoric just before Tuesday’s rally seemed to offer a peek into a campaign that will largely be fought along the same lines as his first bid, with very few new policy proposals for a second term.
Earlier this month, Trump threatened to impose tariffs on Mexican goods if the US southern neighbour did not do more to stem the flow of migrants and asylum seekers to the US border. Mexican officials responded by agreeing to a deal that included sending more than 6,000 National Guard members to southern Mexico and considering a safe third country agreement for asylum seekers.
Trump must defend presidential record
Those involved in the president’s re-election effort believe Trump’s 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.
“He’s still not viewed as a politician,” said Jason Miller, Trump’s 2016 senior communications adviser. “Voters don’t define him by the party label, they define him by his policies and his message of shaking up the status quo in Washington. That’s the biggest reason he was able to win blue states in 2016.”
But 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, as well as his crackdowns on women’s rights and immigrants.
In a media call on Tuesday, Democratic Party officials focused on his moves to weaken the signature healthcare law of his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, without providing an alternative.
“The thing that is working to our advantage is that this president now has a record to run on,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez.
Unlike in 2016, Trump must now defend his presidential record, which includes a number of controversial policies, from his trade war with China to his handling of the US relationship with Saudi Arabia following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the mounting death toll in the Saudi-UAE war in Yemen.
There have also been increased calls from some Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, to begin impeachment proceedings over potential obstruction of justice during Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In parts of an ABC interview published last week, Trump said he would see nothing wrong in accepting damaging information on a political opponent in the coming 2020 presidential elections if it were offered by a foreign government.
He later attempted walked back on those comments a bit, saying “of course” he’d look at damaging information offered, but he would alert the FBI if the information was “bad”.
So far Democratic leadership has urged caution over impeachment talk, instead, focusing on a myriad of congressional probes into the president, his administration and his businesses.
A change agent?
But Trump is eager to use the power of his office to further his case for re-election. Last month in Louisiana, he promised voters a new bridge if he wins, and in the pivotal Florida Panhandle, he pledged new disaster relief money would flow in a second Trump term.
Trump advisers also point to his popularity among white working-class voters, who consider themselves “forgotten Americans” left behind and mocked by elite insiders. For those voters, many of whom in 2016 cast their first ballots in decades, Trump remains the embodiment of their outsider grievances, their anger stoked by his clashes with political foes and the rest of government (even when his party controls it).
Advisers believe that, in an age of extreme polarisation, 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 in 2016.
Americans acknowledge Trump is a change agent, but they are divided in their views of that change. Early this year, a CNN poll found about three-quarters of Americans saying Trump has created significant changes in the country, and they split about evenly between calling it change for the better and change for the worse. More recently, a March poll from CNN showed 42 percent of Americans think Trump can bring the kind of change the country needs.
In Florida on Tuesday, Trump supporters began lining up for the president’s rally a full day in advance, local media reported.
“It was like a big Trump party,” Maureen Bailey, who slept in a tent with her twin sister, told Reuters news agency.
Local Democratic Party officials planned a “Win With Love” rally a few blocks from the Trump rally.
Trump will so far face one Republican challenger, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, who has little name recognition among Americans.