Trump Launches Reelection Campaign With Familiar Themes

Jun 19, 2019
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Tonight, I stand before you to officially launch my campaign for a second term as president of the United States.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And again, President Trump vowed to beat the establishment.

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TRUMP: The only thing these corrupt politicians will understand is an earthquake at the ballot box. That's what they will understand. And they're going to see it.

MARTIN: President Trump spoke at a rally in Florida last night. About 20,000 supporters were there. So was NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith, who joins us now from Orlando.

Hi, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hello.

MARTIN: So the president speaking there at a massive rally with Trump supporters in Florida, sounding an awful lot like candidate Donald Trump back in 2016. What's new for 2020? Is there a new message or is he just relying on what he knows has been popular in the past?

KEITH: Well, you know, it was an arena full of people there to hear the greatest hits. And they got the greatest hits. Both the president's, you know, campaign soundtrack was the same - the music was the same. The arguments were the same. It's actually, in a way, kind of remarkable. He has been running for reelection, technically, since Inauguration Day. And in that time, he's held something like 60 rallies. How was this rally different than all the other rallies? Well, there were more people there. There were more people in the crowd. There were more reporters, some - more than 500 reporters showed up. And in a way, it was like he was picking up right where he left off in 2016. At the end of that campaign, as you'll remember, he was talking about the system being rigged and the election being stolen from him.

MARTIN: Right.

KEITH: Now he's president of the United States, and he's saying that the other party is trying to erase people's votes.

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TRUMP: Our radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice and rage. They want to destroy you. And they want to destroy our country as we know it - not acceptable. It's not going to happen.

KEITH: Now, a traditional campaign reelection launch would look back and say, look at all that we've accomplished. And President Trump did do some of that. He talked about...

MARTIN: Right? The economy, right?

KEITH: Yeah. He talked about the economy. He talked about jobs. He talked about trade, but that's not where the passion was. You know, the passion was where he was talking about all the grievances and talking about Hillary Clinton to the point that, you know, the lock her up chants came out. And he really barely talked about any of the Democrats - any of the 23 Democrats that are running for president.

MARTIN: So understanding it's hard sometimes to get inside the president's head - but what does he mean when he says Democrats want to erase people's votes?

KEITH: Well, he was talking about that in a section where he also was talking about the confirmation process of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and calling Democrats a mob - and also where he was talking about the investigations of him by Democrats in Congress and also the Russia investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, saying that this was all about trying to undo the last election or erase people's votes.

MARTIN: I want to fact-check a couple of statements the president made last night. He talked about socialism - right? - with this kind of broad critique of the 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful field, calling them socialists. Senator Bernie Sanders does call himself a democratic socialist. Explain how that is different than what the president is saying.

KEITH: Yeah. So what Bernie Sanders is talking about - and Sanders goes the furthest. But many of the Democratic candidates are also talking about social programs. You know, they talk about "Medicare for All" or making health care or child care more available to people. That's what they're talking about when they're talking about socialism.

President Trump is putting it in very stark terms, saying that it's a choice between socialism and freedom. And part of this is he is speaking to an older demographic, a wider demographic of voters who tend to support him and come from generations that remember socialism and see it as a threat.

MARTIN: He also talked about the wall and his broader immigration plans. I want to play this clip.

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TRUMP: And we are building the wall. We're going to have over 400 miles of wall built by the end of next year. It's moving rapidly - moving very rapidly.

MARTIN: Is he going to be able to do that, Tam?

KEITH: It's a very open question and highly unlikely. And when he talks about length of wall that's being built, he's talking not about new wall being constructed but about new wall-like structure replacing fencing that's already there.

MARTIN: What else did you hear from Trump supporters?

KEITH: You know, they talked a lot about socialism, in fact. And it seems to be reaching them. They also talked a lot about immigration and concern about the people coming across the border. But anything they're unhappy with they are not blaming President Trump for.

MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith from Orlando, Fla.

Thank you, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.