President Donald Trump accused Democrats of trying to “destroy our nation” as he officially kicked off his re-election campaign with a packed-house rally at the Amway Center here on Tuesday night.
“Our radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice, and rage,” he stated, pointing to House efforts to investigate his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia and possible obstruction of justice by the president. “They want to destroy you and they want to destroy our nation as we know it. Not acceptable, it’s not going to happen. Not going to happen.”
The federal Russia inquiries aren’t just an attack on him, he told the crowd — “they are really going after you. … They tried to erase your vote, erase your legacy of the greatest campaign and the greatest election probably in the history of our nation.”
One after another, he passed familiar applause lines designed to induce chants — “build the wall,” “CNN sucks” and “lock her up” among them — that have been the strengths of his campaign rallies for four years now.
The tenor of Trump’s words wasn’t a huge surprise to observers. His strategy for re-election, say allies, isn’t based on persuading a significant share of the majority of Americans who disapprove of his job performance to vote for him. Rather, he’s trying to super-charge his fans with sufficient energy that they show up in force for him and spread the word to their friends and neighbors.
Rather, given both his inability to improve his approval ratings and Democrats’ failure to diminish them, Trump’s remarks appeared designed to appeal to the subset of potential voters already attracted to the words he’s been driving all along.
That goal was obvious in his decision to aim a message directly at his base during an appearance in Orlando, which sits at the center of Florida’s I-4 corridor. The region is a traditional swing area in a swing state that is crucial to Trump’s fate, and his answer to that challenge was elevating up his existing supporters rather than reaching out across the political divide.
Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., a leader of the moderate Blue Dog Democrats who represents a neighboring community, said Trump came to the right place, and that her party will have to find the right mix of swing voter outreach and base Democratic enthusiasm to defeat him.