President Trump kicked off his reelection campaign at the 20,000 seat Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on Tuesday night - packing the stadium to the brim as he revealed a few clues clues about his 2020 strategy to the hyped crowd.
"Our country is more thriving, prospering and booming and truly it is soaring to new heights," proclaimed Trump, adding that America is experiencing "perhaps the greatest economy" in US history.
As expected, Trump laid into his enemies; Democrats, the establishment, Robert Mueller (against whom Trump says he "won"), and of course - the "fake news media" which he repeatedly pointed to and mocked at several points.
Trump also laid out a dismal future if he loses in 2020 - arguing that life would get much worse under Democrats, who he says "want to destroy you and our country as we know it" with "un-American conduct."
As The Hill's Jordan Fabian and Jonathan Easley note, Trump offered the following five takeaways (emphasis ours):
Trump will cast Democrats as socialists and extremists
On everything from abortion rights to immigration, Trump plans to cast Democrats as far-left extremists, oftentimes in harsh terms.
Trump warned on Tuesday that Democrats had become “depraved” on the matter of border security, arguing that “the Democrat position on open borders is morally reprehensible” and a “betrayal of the American middle class.”
The president also seized on the abortion debate that ignited when Alabama passed one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the country, saying that “virtually every top Democrat” supports “ripping babies straight from the mothers' womb.” That fight is certain to energize the president’s base of evangelical supporters.
And regardless of their thoughts on socialism, Trump plans to paint the entire 2020 Democratic field as the enemies of capitalism and the American way of life.
Of the 2020 presidential contenders, only Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has openly embraced socialism. Most of the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders are eager to separate the party’s progressive policy proposals, such as “Medicare for All” and the Green New Deal, from the debate over socialism.
Nonetheless, Trump’s approach is an attempt to set himself up as a populist fighter against political elites and an “angry, left-wing mob.”
“They went after my family, my business, my employees, almost everyone that I’ve ever known or worked with, but they’re really going after you,” the president told the crowd.
Trump (mostly) holds fire on individual 2020 Dems
While the president spent much of his speech excoriating the Democratic Party, he largely avoided attacking his possible challengers.
During one 30-minute stretch of his remarks, Trump mentioned 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton seven times even though she will not be on the ballot this time.
The president by comparison mentioned former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic front-runner, just twice and Sanders only once. Trump called Biden a “sleepy guy” but stuck to hitting him over his handling of China and manufacturing during the Obama administration and did not wade into other personal attacks. He also hit Sanders to drive home his argument about socialism.
Trump’s performance should please his advisers, who want him to paint Democrats with a broad brush, rather than get drawn into individual fights at this stage of the race.
But it appears unlikely that will hold: the president is reportedly planning to live tweet next week during the Democrats’ first primary debate.
Little talk of agenda
Trump barely scratched the surface when it comes to explaining to voters what he would do if they give him four more years in the White House.
The president touched on the unfinished business looming over his reelection race: his long-promised border wall and a new health care plan. But he offered few details about how he plans to get each accomplished.
He also paid lip service to the immigration plan he rolled out last month, but which has not gained traction on Capitol Hill.
He also appeared indifferent about striking a trade deal with China, saying he is fine with talks falling through, perhaps in an effort to show his base he will stay tough on Beijing.
While Trump may plan to argue voters should keep him in office as a good steward of the economy, the gaps in his agenda could open him up to attacks from Democrats that he does not have a plan to address issues like health care and the wage gap.
Trump wants to take on the very establishment he’s part of
Is it possible for an incumbent president in charge of one-third of the federal government to run as a Washington outsider?
Trump is going to find out.
Over the course of his speech, the president railed against the “unholy alliance” of lobbyists and special interests, and warned that nefarious entities in “Washington back rooms” want to “take away your dignity.”
Trump complained about the “rigged system” he said was blocking him from achieving his goals, and said the “swamp is fighting back so viciously and violently against him.”
“The people trying to stop our movement are the same Washington insiders who spent their careers rigging the system so your losses will be their gains, you know that,” Trump said. “These are the same career politicians who presided over decades of lost wages, the loss of our manufacturing jobs ...a growing wealth gap and one ruinous trade deal after another.”
The president will have a hard time convincing Washington insiders that his administration has been a breath of fresh air for government accountability. Countless administration officials have been forced out, or even indicted, for the type of conflicts of interest or scandals that Trump is railing against.
But still, there is a sense among Trump’s supporters that they delivered a blow to the establishment when they helped elect Trump.
On Tuesday night, the president leaned into the grievances his supporters hold against the Washington political and media elites, whom he accuses of looking down their noses at ordinary Americans.
“They called us deplorables. That was a mistake. That was a big mistake,” Trump said.
Watch the full rally below: