Trump launches 2020 re-election bid in jam-packed Orlando arena

President Trump formally launched his 2020 re-election campaign Tuesday night before a jam-packed crowd in Orlando’s Amway Center arena, and quickly unloaded on the media organizations and government actors he said tried their hardest with “everything they had” to bring down both his candidacy and presidency.

To chants of “USA,” Trump took the stage after brief remarks by Vice President Mike Pence and first lady Melania Trump, and recalled his unlikely rise to the presidency.

“We stared down the unholy alliance of lobbyists and donors and special interests who made a living bleeding our country dry,” Trump said.

Just over four years ago, Trump descended through the pink marble and brass atrium of Trump Tower to announce his candidacy for president, the first step on a journey few analysts believed would take him all the way to the White House.

This time, thousands of Trump supporters arrived more than 40 hours in advance to secure a spot in the Amway Center, despite sweltering heat. Some had been camped in chairs for several nights.

Supporters of President Trump waiting in line hours before the arena doors opened Tuesday in Orlando. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Supporters of President Trump waiting in line hours before the arena doors opened Tuesday in Orlando. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Trump told attendees he had begun not only a “great political campaign but a great movement” committed to the idea that a government must “care for its own citizens first.”

He called his election that year as a “defining moment in American history” — and then directed the crowd to “ask them, right there,” referring to the media assembled in the back, which many in the crowd jeered.

“Our country is soaring to incredible new heights,” Trump asserted, to loud applause. “Our economy is the envy of the world, perhaps the greatest economy we’ve had in the history of our country, and as long as you keep this team in place — we have a tremendous way to go — our future has never, ever looked brighter or sharper.”

Trump continued: “The fact is, the American Dream is back. It’s bigger, and better, and stronger than ever before.”

Democrats in Congress, Trump said, in the meantime wanted to waste time with a “do-over” of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

“Our patriotic movement has been under assault from the very first day,” Trump said. He went on to specifically call out the “phony” dossier used by the FBI to secure a secret surveillance warrant to surveil one of his former aides, Carter Page.

When Trump pointed out that the dossier was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee (DNC), the crowd again broke into a chant, this time cheering, “Lock her up.”

“If you want to know how the system is rigged, just look at how they came at us for three years with everything they had, versus the free passes they gave to Hillary Clinton and her aides … after they deleted and acid-washed 33,000 emails, exposed classified information, and turned the State Department into a pay-for-play cash machine,” Trump said, his voice rising with the crowd’s.

“They delete and they acid wash — which is very expensive, nobody does it — those emails, never to be seen again. But we may find them again somewhere deep in the State Department. Can you imagine if I got a subpoena? Think of this — if I deleted one email, like a love note to Melania, it’s the electric chair for Trump.”


Trump went on to emphasize his success in appointing federal judges, ,and lamented Democrats’ treatment of now-Justice Brett Kavanuagh, telling the crowd, “They didnt just try to win, they tried to destroy him with false and malicious accusations.”

“We just finished [confirming judge] number 107, already approved, sitting on the bench — how about that?” Trump asked. “By the time we’re finished with the rest, we will have record percentages [of judges appointed] — our percentage will be a record, except for one person. One person has a higher percentage … George Washington.”

The festive and lively environment was evident both outside and inside the arena. Caps and shirts and mugs and ponchos were being hawked in corners far and wide in Orlando, with slogans ranging from “God, Guns and Trump” to “Trump’s Deplorables” to “Working to Defeat Liberals since 1854.”

“Bikers For Trump” volunteer security members managed traffic in and out of the rally areas as jubilant Trump devotees partied to a band while in line, occasionally breaking into “USA, USA” chants.

Others wandered the blocks around the venue urging people to sign a petition to “prevent voter fraud.”

“Only U.S. citizens should be able to vote,” explained Donny, a Jacksonville native. “That’s what we want in Florida.”

Joe Biden, the frontrunner among Democrats in both polling and fundraising, sought to blunt the momentum from the Tuesday launch shortly before Trump took the stage.


“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,” Biden Deputy Campaign Manager Kate Bedingfield said in a statement.

“Think of this — if I deleted one email, like a love note to Melania, it’s the electric chair for Trump.”

— President Trump

“Our country cannot afford four more years of Trump diminishing America’s role on the world stage, cutting access to health care, ignoring the climate emergency that is an unprecedented threat to our national security, tearing children from their parents at the border, giving enormous new tax breaks to big corporations and the wealthy at the expense of working families, and dividing our country by embracing toxic bigotry and racism that’s antithetical to who we are,” Bedingfield added.

Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, hosted an “Ask Me Anything” open forum on Reddit on Tuesday. The self-described democratic socialist condemned what he called Trump’s “rejection of science,” and lamented the “incredible attacks against working families that have taken place under unfettered capitalism.”

Sanders said he would issue a video response to Trump’s address later Tuesday evening.

Hats and other merchandise were flying off the racks Tuesday afternoon in Orlando, ahead of Trump's rally. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Hats and other merchandise were flying off the racks Tuesday afternoon in Orlando, ahead of Trump’s rally. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

“The working class of this country has been decimated for decades by a coordinated attack from corporate America,” Sanders told one Reddit user. “Bad trade deals have allowed corporations to ship millions of jobs abroad, companies have bitterly resisted unionization and the minimum wage has not been raised for almost 10 years.”

Not all of the participants in Sanders’ Reddit event gave him a warm welcome, however, with some pointing out Sanders’ recent, dramatic rise to wealth.

“People like you have destroyed the working class by taking more of their taxes to fund a corporate-run utopia that never can exist,” one user replied. “Wealth is decided by the rarity of your skill set, not how hard you work, Mr. 3 mansions and an Audi R8.”

Trump is ahead of his Democrat rivals in key battleground states and “voters overall” support re-electing him, a Republican National Committee (RNC) memo obtained by Fox News claimed.

The memo came amid reports of the president struggling in polls putting him up against potential 2020 opponents, including Biden. A Fox News poll showed similar numbers.

But, according to the RNC, its own massive data operation told a different story. According to the committee’s numbers, Trump has a higher approval than disapproval rating in the battleground states of Ohio and Pennsylvania while a majority of Florida voters (53 percent) supported re-electing him.

Polls are only one key factor, analysts have emphasized. While Tuesday’s crowd size will be touted by the president’s campaign — and surely beats the crowds gathering to see his would-be rivals right now — other numbers tell the full story of the incumbent’s advantage.

One of them is $40.8 million. That’s the unprecedented amount of cash-on-hand the Trump campaign had in its coffers as of the start of the second quarter of fundraising on April 1. While that would be a massive war chest on its own, the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and their joint fundraising committees had a combined $82 million cash-on-hand going into the second quarter.


Another number is 80 – the number of staffers right now on the campaign’s payroll. The campaign told Fox News those people have been spread out between the offices in Rosslyn, Virginia – right across the Potomac River from the capital – as well as in the official headquarters in New York City, and some in the field.

But, that staff is supplemented and assisted by the RNC’s massive manpower in the nation’s capital and a presence in all 50 states — to give the Trump campaign resources they could have only dreamed of at this point in the 2016 cycle.

Fox News’ Mike Emanuel, Holly McKay, Sam Dorman, Paul Steinhauser, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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