President Donald Trump officially kicked off his reelection campaign Tuesday night in Orlando, Florida, with a sprawling, intense, fiery speech that nearly lasted an hour and a half. But in listening to the president’s words, you’d swear you were right back in 2015 watching the billionaire businessman descend down that golden escalator in Trump tower.
Throughout the president’s speech in front of a packed Amway Center, he heavily echoed many of his 2016 campaign speeches, attacking 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, lamenting the “fake news” media, calling for building a wall on the Southern border.
When it came to Clinton, the president offered a familiar refrain, going after his former rival for “deleted and acid-washed 33,000 emails.” The president argued that if he “deleted one email, like a love note to Melania, it’s the electric chair for Trump.”
The president went after Clinton so often on Tuesday night one could be mistaken in assuming he was running against her in 2020.
But when it came to the president’s actual 2020 Democratic opponents,Trump offered little time or breadth, not naming many besides former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, both of whom he attacked.
And in perhaps one of the loudest moments inside the Amway Center all night, the crowd erupted into “Sarah” chants as the president mentioned the outgoing press secretary.
“This has been truly the honor of the lifetime … watching you drastically change this nation,” Sanders said in front of the roaring rally crowd.
Trump, as Sanders left the stage, added: “We’re gonna miss her. Incredible. A warrior.”
Trump campaign staff said the president’s performance was exactly what his supporters wanted.
“This rally is further proof that Donald Trump can motivate voters like no other candidate in history,” communications director Tim Murtaugh told ABC News.
In promoting Tuesday’s festivities at and around the Amway Center, aides indicated the president’s campaign has never really stopped. They told ABC News that this rally in a critical swing state is meant to add to momentum.
“He can’t win the White House without Florida, and we’re going to step up big time to make sure he gets it,” Joe Gruters, chairman of the state Republican Party, said.
In his reelection address, Trump spent most of his speech looking to position himself not as an incumbent president running on a number of accomplishments but as an underdog victimized by conspiracies designed to undercut his political movement, dating back well before he took the oath of office.
“Our patriotic movement has been under assault from the first day,” Trump told the crowd. “We’ve accomplished more than any president has in the first 2 1/2 years and under circumstances that no president has had to deal with before … nobody has done what we have done.”
“I stand before you to officially launch my campaign for a second term as President of the United States.”
“We went through the greatest witch hunt in political history — the only collusion was committed by the Democrats, the fake news media and their operatives, and the people who funded the phony dossier, crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC,” he said. “It was all an illegal attempt to overturn the results of the election, spy on our campaign, which is what they did, and subvert our democracy.”
Vice President Mike Pence took the stage prior to the president and said, “We’re here for one reason and one reason only: America needs four more years of President Donald Trump.”
The crowd began chanting, “Four more years!”
“It’s on everybody,” Pence said. “Time for round two.”
While Pence didn’t name any of the 2020 Democrats running for president, he looked to define the Democratic opposition as far-left radicals who want “more taxes, more regulation and less freedom.”
“Today, Democrats openly advocate socialism — an economic system that has impoverished millions of people around the world and stole the liberty of generations,” Pence said. “The choice in this election will not just be a choice between two candidates, but a choice between two futures.”
First lady Melania Trump walked out with the president and briefly spoke to the crowd.
“It has been my honor to serve this country for the past two years. And I’m excited to do it for six more,” she said. “I’m proud of all that my husband, this administration and our entire family have done on behalf of the American people in such a short time. He truly loves this country and will continue to work on your behalf as long as he can. All of us will.”
Since Friday, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have been hosting a “National Week of Training” across the country for 16,325 attendees at more than 970 events, including “Trump Victory Leadership Initiative” training sessions and “MAGA Meet-Ups,” according to numbers provided to ABC News by the campaign.
America First Policies also kicked off its voter registration drive in Orlando on Tuesday with the aim of spending more than $20 million and registering voters in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia.
“There are millions of patriotic Americans who believe in the America First movement, but aren’t registered to vote,” America First Policies President Brian O. Walsh said.
“Democrats are still very competitive here,” Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., told ABC News.
Trump beat Clinton for Florida’s 29 electoral votes by 112,911 votes, a greater margin of victory than President Barack Obama’s 2012 win over now-Sen. Mitt Romney., R-Utah.
Last year’s hard-fought midterm election — so close that it prompted a recount — ended with Democrats losing every statewide race except agriculture commissioner: Rep. Ron DeSantis defeated Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the gubernatorial race, and then-Gov. Rick Scott unseated Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the only Democrat besides Obama to win statewide since the 1990s.
“At the end of the day, it will be a close race, and it will be dog-eat-dog,” said Nelson, who’s endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. “The state has been influenced by Trump, utilizing the powers of the president as well as Republican administrations in Florida. You combine all of that in what is effectively a 50-50 state, and you see the trends that occurred in the last two elections.”
In a call with reporters on Monday, Democratic National Committee officials said the party already has 90 field organizers on the ground and has spent millions to register 200,000 voters ahead of 2020.
The party is also centering its message against Trump on health care, including the administration’s decision not to defend the Affordable Care Act in court, a winning issue for the party in 2018 and one that wasn’t on the table in 2016.
Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC, launched a six-figure digital advertising campaign in Florida ahead of Trump’s visit on Tuesday, targeting the president on health care and the Republican tax cut that he signed into law in 2017.
For Our Future, a progressive super PAC backed in part by billionaire Tom Steyer, is directing its $80 million budget toward organizing in Florida and other battleground states. The group, modeled on some of the conservative organizing groups funded by the Koch Brothers, has worked to keep Democratic voters engaged in between cycles and around issues.
One of the group’s focuses in Florida will be activating some of the 1.4 million ex-felons who are now eligible to vote in the state, according to CEO Justin Myers.
Multiple 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including Biden, have traveled to the state. The party plans to hold its first round of primary debates in Miami later this month.
In Orlando, only 20,000 attendees were allowed inside the Amway Center, where some Trump supporters had lined up nearly 40 hours before the event.
The festivities began well before the president even traveled to Florida on Tuesday, with “45 Fest,” an outdoor event at the Amway Center beginning in the morning and featuring food trucks, live music and massive TV screens for the overflow crowd that was expected to descend on downtown Orlando.