President Trump kicked off his re-election campaign Tuesday evening in Orlando, nearly four years to the day since he first descended an escalator to announce an improbable run for the Republican nomination for president. Despite the years that have passed since then, Trump returned to many of his favorite topics in the roughly 80 minutes he spoke on stage. Here are three takeaways from Tuesday’s rally.
The scene was much, much different from Trump’s last campaign kickoff
Recall Trump’s campaign launch in 2015: The location was in the atrium of his Trump Tower building in New York City, and the announcement did not attract many attendees. Some in the crowd had been paid $50 to show up and cheer for Trump, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
He famously arrived to the event by riding an escalator down to the stage.
This time, the scene was different, but the former reality TV star’s penchant for spectacle was still evident. The Trump campaign lined up entertainment and food trucks for a tailgate-style party ahead of the event, drawing crowds that arrived hours ahead of time. Rather than the lobby of a skyscraper, the venue was a nearly 20,000-seat arena and Trump arrived in a presidential motorcade.
Trump is still focused on the 2016 election
Trump spent several minutes of his speech attacking a Democratic presidential candidate, but not one who is currently running for office.
Hillary Clinton’s name came up over and over during Trump’s rally.
A “Hillary for Prison” t-shirt could be seen in the audience and chants of “Lock her up” could be heard as Trump claimed without evidence that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation was as an “insurance policy” created by nefarious actors in case Clinton lost.
Trump returned to 2016 again and again, recalling scenes from the debates, slamming Clinton’s e-mail scandal, and rehashing her use of “deplorables” to describe some of his supporters.
“Thirty-three thousand e-mails deleted, think of it, I keep mentioning, you know, there was a lot of corruption on the other side,” Trump said.
When he did discuss the Democratic presidential field, it was often in general terms.
“The people trying to stop our movement are the same Washington insiders who spent their careers rigging the system,” he said at one point.
Trump’s first mention of former vice president Joe Biden, now a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, come more than 30 minutes into his speech, when he criticized an Obama-era policy toward China. He criticized Senator Bernie Sanders’ universal health care plan, but did not mention most of the roughly two-dozen Democrats in the race to replace him.
Trump is keeping his focus on immigration into 2020
Though the 2020 slogan might be different (“Keep America Great!”), many of Trump’s major points were familiar to those who followed the 2016 campaign. Trump touted his work on trade issues, tax cuts, and health care, but returned frequently to immigration.
Ahead of his reelection kick-off, Trump announced on Twitter that he intended to launch a major immigration enforcement operation in the coming days that would target undocumented families. The announcement foreshadowed a theme of his speech: Trump repeated several of his common refrains around the immigration issue, arguing that undocumented immigrants are straining public resources and issuing apocalyptic warnings about Democrats who have opposed his policies.
“On no issue are Democrats more extreme or more depraved than on border security,” Trump said “The Democrat agenda of open borders is morally reprehensible. It’s the greatest betrayal of the American middle class and frankly, American life, our country has, as a whole — nobody’s seen anything like it.”
Trump also said his border wall — perhaps his biggest campaign promise — was being built, but he has not yet been able to secure funding from Congress. An attempt to use a national emergency declaration to free up funds was temporarily blocked by a federal judge last month.