Supporters of US President Donald Trump wait outside the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida where Trump is expected to launch his 2020 re-election campaign
Orlando (AFP) – President Donald Trump promised a “wild” 2020 campaign launch rally in Florida on Tuesday, even if dismal early poll numbers show he faces a difficult reelection.
Organizers claim the Orlando rally has sold out a 20,000-seat arena, with many more to gather outside, watching on big screens.
With his customary enthusiasm for lavish self-promotion, Trump portrayed the scale of the event as only one step below a rock concert.
“Look what is going on in Orlando, Florida, right now! People have never seen anything like it (unless you play a guitar). Going to be wild – See you later!” he tweeted.
Supporters of the president lined Orlando’s downtown sidewalks, waiting in tents and chairs overnight to be the first in the door for the rally.
“This is a historic event, we would not miss this for anything,” David Meloney told AFP as he waited outside the arena on Monday.
Florida will be one of the key swing states in 2020 if Trump is to defeat the nominee chosen from a field of 23 Democratic hopefuls.
And ahead of the rally, he pushed several of the core issues in his populist, nationalist platform.
In one tweet, the president complained, as he does almost daily, about the “Fake News” failing to admit to his popularity.
In another, early Tuesday, he attacked the European Union for what he says is currency manipulation making it “unfairly easier” for the US ally when it comes to trade.
And overnight he surprised many by tweeting the imminent mass deportations of illegal immigrants — even if neither the president nor anyone in his government provided any details on how this could be accomplished.
“Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in,” Trump tweeted, referring to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
– Polls indicate tight race –
After more than two drama-filled years at the White House, the fast-talking real estate salesman bets that a strong economy and his promise to fight for forgotten blue collar workers will persuade the country to give him a second term in 2020.
But there’s no question that a lengthy probe into Trump’s murky dealings with Russia and his divisive, bruising style have left him wounded.
A wide range of polls show Trump lagging far behind Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden, who is campaigning on a promise to return the country to what he portrays as the calmer, gentler days of Barack Obama, under whom he served as vice president.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday showed Biden leading Trump 50-41 percent in Florida, while Senator Bernie Sanders is up 48-42 percent over the president in the state.
Even Pete Buttigieg, the gay, small-city mayor emerging as one of the surprise stars of the Democratic field, narrowly leads Trump nationwide, according to a poll from Fox News released this weekend.
Polls so far in advance have limited value and in 2016 they famously failed to predict Trump’s defeat of Democrat Hillary Clinton. If anything, the surveys point to another bitterly fought, tight race.
But in a sign of frayed nerves, Trump has lashed out at what he calls “fake” polling, while multiple US media reports say that his campaign has fired several of its own pollsters.
– Back to basics –
Democrats are fired up, with the party’s most active wing veering left and a vocal minority pushing for Trump’s impeachment.
So if Trump is going to win, he’ll need everyone from his own fervent base on the right to turn out, setting the stage for a sharply polarized election.
The Orlando speech will see him aim directly at that demographic.
Expect Trump to claim the US economy is richer, the military stronger, and the country more respected than ever in its history.
And expect ultra-loyal, core Republican supporters in red “Make America Great Again” baseball caps to chant “USA!” while booing journalists assigned to cover the event.
These are the voters who steered Trump to improbable victory in 2016, when he faced the polished and experienced Clinton.
By homing in on working-class white Americans and tapping into their grievances over globalization and the liberal elites, Trump successfully ate into the Democrats’ own base.
On Tuesday he will renew that pitch.
“You’ve always been loyal to this nation and finally you have a president who’s loyal to you,” he tells a roaring crowd in his latest official campaign video.