2016 All Over Again – The New York Times

ORLANDO, Fla. — The crowd in the Amway Center, an arena that seats 20,000, cheered loudly as oversize screens hanging from the ceiling broadcast Fox News projections that Donald J. Trump would win Florida and Ohio — in 2016.

Die-hard supporters bussed in from across the state on Tuesday to celebrate the “official” kickoff of Mr. Trump’s 2020 campaign appeared frozen in time, reliving Mr. Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton.

The evening rally, a supersize version of the “Make America Great Again” rallies Mr. Trump has been staging in red states since the beginning of his presidency, was meant to energize the president and consolidate support in a must-win state where Mr. Trump’s numbers are still softer than his advisers would like them to be.

But the vibe — the red caps and campaign slogan, a refreshed but familiar playlist featuring “Eye of the Tiger” and “My Way” on loop, an invocation by the megachurch pastor Paula White — was that Mr. Trump and his supporters really wanted to relive their surprise 2016 victory .

“2016 was not merely another four-year election,” Mr. Trump said when he took the stage. Pointing to the press pen, he noted that it was “a defining moment in American history, ask them right there.”

He followed up with promises to “drain the swamp,” pausing as the crowd picked up the familiar refrain, and assurances that he was going to “build the wall.” He mentioned Hillary Clinton more than half a dozen times before he even acknowledged a single Democratic candidate running for president in 2020.

“Do you remember this?” Mr. Trump asked. “They called us deplorables. I think Hillary Clinton made a big mistake with that speech.”

Of course, they remembered. They were here to relive it. And so was Mr. Trump’s family as they lined up to warm up the crowd before his arrival.

Mr. Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, who is married to Eric Trump, was the first, reminiscing about the now iconic escalator ride four years ago in Trump Tower when Mr. Trump announced his candidacy.

“They thought it was a publicity stunt,” Ms. Trump said of a disdainful news media. “Wasn’t it that much sweeter on Nov. 8, 2016?”

Her brother-in-law Donald Trump Jr. was more forward-looking, debuting his own nickname for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., “floppy Joe,” and previewing the line of attack the campaign hopes to use against Mr. Biden.

“The problem is, you’ve been in government for almost 50 years,” said Mr. Trump, underscoring his father’s status as an outsider, despite occupying the Oval Office.

Ivanka Trump, the president’s older daughter, who introduced her father at his announcement four years ago, did not take a speaking role this time around, but was greeted with cheers when her blonde hair became visible near the stage.

Aboard Air Force One en route from Washington, there was something of a throwback theme, as well. En route to Florida, Mr. Trump was accompanied by Kellyanne Conway, who served as his final campaign manager in 2016, and who is not part of his regular traveling entourage.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Mr. Trump’s departing press secretary who has been with Mr. Trump since his last campaign, wrote wistfully on Twitter that this was to be her final flight with the president.

Mr. Trump, for his part, surrounded by his family and the aides who were with him on his first improbable run, seemed ready to run the same campaign all over again.

He ended telling the crowd that the themes of his campaign had not shifted, and that the country was still in a dark place and in need of change. “Together we will make America wealthy again,” he said. “We will make America strong again. We will make America safe again.”

Whether the message will have the same effect as it did four years ago — when Mr. Trump’s reading the room and responding to the crowd was a novel and mesmerizing act — is an open question.

Unlike last time, some of his most avid supporters seemed to have exhausted themselves before the end of the show. By the end of Mr. Trump’s 76-minute speech, there were patches of blue seats visible across the arena. Some supporters had left the rally early, maybe because they had seen it before.

Source link