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US President Donald Trump launched his 2020 re-election campaign on Tuesday at a mass rally in Florida, blasting his opponents as radicals, presenting himself as a political outsider and slamming the media. Photo: AFP

Donald Trump launches 2020 re-election campaign with grievance-filled rally in Florida

  • The apocalyptic language and finger-pointing made clear that Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign will probably look a whole lot like his 2016 run
Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday formally launched his 2020 re-election campaign with a grievance-filled rally that focused more on settling scores than on laying out his agenda for a second term.

At a packed rally at an arena in Orlando, Florida, Trump made clear he would run for re-election as an outsider, just as he did in 2016.

He revisited campaign themes from four years ago, decrying illegal immigration, the media and his 2016 Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

“Together we stared down a broken political establishment and we restored government by and for the people,” Trump said.

“As long as you keep this team in place, we have a tremendous way to go. Our future has never looked brighter or sharper.”

Trump said his Democratic challengers would radically change the United States and seek to legalise migrants coming across the southern border so they could vote and boost the Democratic political base.

Democrats “want to destroy our country as we know it” and that it’s “not going to happen,” Trump said.

“We believe our country should be a sanctuary for law-abiding citizens, not for criminal aliens,” he said.

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 battleground states.

Trump called his opponents a “radical left-wing mob” who would bring socialism to the United States.

“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.

The Amway Centre in Orlando, filled with Trump supporters. Photo: AFP

Trump made his re-election launch official at what was his 60th political rally since he took office in January 2017.

He brought his wife, Melania, and a large contingent of senior White House staff.

“Tonight I stand before you to officially launch my campaign for a second term as president of the United States,“ Trump said.

“I promise you I will never ever let you down.“

Over the course of a speech that lasted an hour and 20 minutes, Trump blasted the news media as “fake news”, took credit for a strong economy, said he was putting the heat on China on trade, promoted his proposal for a “space force”, vowed to protect Americans’ rights to own guns and said he wanted to launch a space mission to Mars.

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He also promised to eradicate Aids in America and to come up with cures to many diseases, “including cancer and others”, during his second term.

Trump also declared himself a victim and aired his grievances.

He made an issue of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

US President Donald Trump greets first lady Melania Trump as he takes the stage. Photo: AFP

The probe found insufficient evidence to establish that the Trump campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Moscow. It also described numerous attempts by Trump to impede Mueller’s probe, but stopped short of declaring that he committed a crime.

“We went through the biggest witch hunt in political history,” said Trump.

“It was all an illegal attempt to overturn the results of the election.”

Two-and-a-half years into his tenure, Trump sees plenty of positive factors, led by a growing economy with low unemployment.

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“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 the lingering aftermath of the Russia probe, coupled with a presidential style marked by name-calling and eye-popping tweets, has undermined some Americans’ confidence in Trump.

He also has stirred division with his hardline policies on immigration and unsettled business and farm groups with his use of tariffs in trade disputes with China and some allies.

Donald Trump Jnr with his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle. Photo: Reuters

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.

“Donald Trump is launching his campaign for re-election tonight and the American people face a choice - we can make Trump an aberration or let him fundamentally and forever alter the character of this nation,” said Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager for Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll on June 11 gave Trump a 40 per cent job approval rating, compared with 57 per cent who disapproved.

Other opinion polls have shown him running consistently behind his main Democratic challengers, such as Biden, in key battleground states.

Trump’s campaign parted ways over the weekend with three of its pollsters after internal results leaked showing the president trailing Biden in states across the country.

Another big Democratic candidate, the left-wing Senator Bernie Sanders, scorned Trump after the Florida speech.

“Listening to Trump made me feel very much like he is a man living in a parallel universe... and is a man who must be defeated,” Sanders said.

The Orlando Sentinel welcomed the president’s visit to Florida with an editorial titled: “Our endorsement for president in 2020: Not Donald Trump”.

Reuters, The Washington Post, Bloomberg and Associated Press

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Trump looks to settle scores after 2020