It was everything Donald Trump wanted, and so much more.
The optics-obsessed president was greeted by thousands of adoring supporters when he arrived here on Tuesday to kick off his bid for a second term. In lieu of a red carpet, a sea of red, white and camouflage hats provided the backdrop for his first official campaign rally of the 2020 cycle.
As soon as Trump took the stage in his signature red tie, the crowd seemed pleased to have waited. They greeted him with “USA” chants as he recalled the “movement” he started four years ago.
“It turned out to be more than just a great political campaign. It turned out to be a great political movement because of you,” the president said, echoing the same nationalist message that became a staple of his first presidential run. “It’s a movement made up of people… who believe that a nation must care for its own citizens first.”
Fans camped out since dusk on Monday to secure a spot inside the 20,000-seat Amway Center. They began chanting familiar slogans as anticipation built for the evening’s main act and familiar characters took the stage. Trump’s eldest son, Don Jr., riled up the crowd with a series of attacks against Joe Biden, a telling sign that his father views the former vice president his likeliest opponent. Vice President Mike Pence promised the crowd that four more years “means four more jobs, more judges … and at least four more years to drain the swamp.”
Trump picked up where his vice president left off as he took the mic, ticking through all the items he can accomplish if granted another term. But the president couldn’t help but focus on the trials of his first White House bid, too.
“If I deleted one email, like a love note to Melania, it’s the electric chair for Trump,” he said during a lengthy riff against his past opponent, Hillary Clinton, and the scandal surrounding her private email server. His comments were preceded by chants of “Lock her up!”
Just like Clinton, the crowded Democratic field wants to “splinter us into factions and tribes,” Trump warned the crowd, as he grumbled about “Washington insiders” and “career politicians” — the same foils he ran against in 2016.
Trump’s re-election launch — with an all-day tailgate party beforehand and a festival-like feel — borrowed a key ingredient from the unorthodox announcement speech he delivered four years ago: Nothing about it was normal, but it was a captivating show.