WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump officially launched his re-election campaign in a rally in the swing state of Florida on Tuesday (June 18), leaning on the strong American economy, hawkish trade policies and a hardline approach on immigration under his administration’s watch to make the case that returning him to office would “Keep America Great”.
“Our economy is the envy of the world,” he told an enthused crowd of supporters at a packed 20,000-seat baseball arena in Orlando. “As long as you keep this team in place, we have a tremendous way to go. Our future has never looked brighter or sharper.”
“Today I stand before you to officially launch my campaign for a second term as President of the United States,” he said, flanked by wife Melania Trump, some of his children, and accompanied by vice president Mike Pence.
Mr Trump, who announced his first, then-improbable campaign for the presidency four years and two days ago (June 16, 2015) at Trump Tower in New York City, cast himself as an outsider taking on the political establishment of Democrats, lobbyists and media organisations.
“We took on a political machine,” he said. “Many times I said we would drain the swamp and that’s what we’re doing right now, draining the swamp.”
Mr Trump railed against what he called unfair treatment by the establishment, calling the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller – on Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the president and his staff had obstructed justice – a witch hunt and an illegal attempt to overturn his election victory.
“They went after me…but they’re really after you,” he told the crowd, adding: “Just imagine what this angry, left-wing mob would do if they are in charge of this country. Imagine if we had a Democrat president and a Democrat Congress in 2020.”
The divisive but familiar themes have featured heavily in his unofficial rallies since taking office, and are sure to form the contours of future ones ahead of election day on Nov 3, 2020.
Mr Trump also touted strong economic gains to make the case that his administration had delivered its slogan and promise of making America great again.
He referred to how the unemployment rate of 3.7 per cent was the country’s lowest since 1969, and said that wages were rising, particularly among the lowest-income workers.
He added that Americans were benefiting from tax cuts to the tune of over US$2,000 (S$2,735) a year, and his slashing of regulations saved American households US$3,000 on average a year.
His administration was also “reversing decades of calamitous trade policies” and this was why manufacturing jobs were coming back to the US, he said.
“Thanks to tariffs, American steel mills are roaring back to life,” said Mr Trump.
“We’ve taken historic action to confront China’s trading abuses. It should have been done a long time ago…but the days of stealing American ideas and wealth, those days are over.”
In the hour-long speech, he also highlighted his administration’s efforts to boost defence spending, crack down on illegal immigration, tighten laws on abortions and fill court benches with judges who were not the Democrats’ “far-left ideologues”.
The presidential contest is still in its very early days, with the election just under 17 months away and the Democrat field wide open ahead of the primary polls from February to June which will narrow the field.
But a fresh poll released on Tuesday before the rally showed Mr Trump down in Florida, which he won in 2016 with 49 per cent of the votes to Hillary Clinton’s 47.8 per cent.
The independent poll by Quinnipiac University showed Mr Trump trailing former Democrat vice president Joe Biden by 41 per cent to 50 per cent in Florida.
Mr Trump was also behind Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, a 2016 contender for the presidency, by 42 to 48 per cent.
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