Jabbing at the press and poking the eye of the political establishment he ran against in 2016, U.S. President Donald Trump officially kicked off his re-election campaign Tuesday with a grievance-filled Florida rally that focused more on settling scores than laying out his agenda for a second term.
Addressing a crowd of thousands at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., Trump complained he had been “under assault from the very first day” of his presidency by a “fake news media” and “illegal witch hunt” that had tried to keep him and his supporters down.
And he painted a disturbing picture of what life would look like if he loses in 2020, accusing his critics of “un-American conduct” and telling the crowd that Democrats “want to destroy you and they want to destroy our country as we know it.”
“A vote for any Democrat in 2020 is a vote for the rise of radical socialism and the destruction of the American dream,” he said, ripping “radical” and “unhinged” Democrats even as he made only passing mention of any of the men and women running to replace him.
Two dozen Democrats are competing for their party’s nomination to face off against Trump in the November 2020 election. Many of the top Democrats lead Trump in opinion polls in many battleground states.
“Just think what this angry left-wing mob would do if they were in charge of this country,” Trump said. “Imagine if we had a Democrat president and a Democrat Congress in 2020. They would shut down your free speech, use the power of the law to punish their opponents.”
The apocalyptic language and finger-pointing made clear that Trump’s 2020 campaign will probably look a whole lot like his improbably successful run three years ago. While Trump’s campaign has tried to professionalize, with shiny office space and a large and growing staff, and despite two-and-a-half years occupying the Oval Office as America’s commander-in-chief, Trump nonetheless remained focused on energizing his base and offering himself as a political outsider running against Washington.
And he appeared eager for a rerun of 2016, spending considerable time focused on former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, whose name elicited “Lock her up!” chants, even though she is not on the ballot.