• Saturday, April 20, 2024
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Donald Trump launches re-election campaign for the White House

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Donald Trump formally launched his 2020 re-election campaign in Florida where he said his victory three years ago was a “defining moment in American history” and vowed to maintain his America First policy

“Exactly four years ago this week I announced my campaign for president . . . It turned out to be a great political movement,” Mr Trump said.

Mr Trump has held dozens of political rallies since he assumed office in January 2017. But the Tuesday evening event in Florida, a key swing state, marked the formal start of a re-election campaign that will see him battle against one of the 23 Democrats vying to run against him next year.

Underscoring the power of incumbency, roughly 20,000 Trump supporters wielding placards that read “Four More Years” and “Trump 2020” filled the arena in Orlando in central Florida.

In a long speech reprising many of his usual themes, Mr Trump attacked the media and described Democrats as an “angry leftwing mob” trying to “erase” the 2016 votes of his supporters.

Urging his supporters to turn out to vote on November 3 2020, Mr Trump said: “This election is not merely a verdict on the amazing progress we’ve made. It’s a verdict on the un-American conduct of those who try to undermine our great democracy and undermine you.”

While Mr Trump touted the strong US economy and his success installing conservative judges on federal courts, he returned to the issue of illegal immigration — a theme that while divisive during the 2016 campaign helped generate an enthusiasm among his supporters that propelled him to victory.

“When it comes to border security, the Democratic agenda of open borders is morally reprehensible. It’s the greatest portrayal of the American middle class,” he said. “The legal mass migration brings in millions of low-wage workers to compete for jobs, wages and opportunities against the most vulnerable Americans, cutting off their path to the American dream. Thanks to Democrat policies, schoolchildren across the country are being threatened by the vicious gang MS-13.”

Ahead of the rally, Mr Trump sparked more controversy about immigration by saying that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency would next week conduct raids aimed at finding and deporting millions of people who live in the US without the proper documentation.

“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,” Mr Trump tweeted.

The US has continued to see a sharp uptick of border apprehensions in recent months, although there have been signs of a slowdown in recent weeks. In May the US apprehended more than 144,000 individuals — the highest such monthly figure in more than a decade.

During the 2016 campaign, Mr Trump stoked fears by warning about rapists and murderers entering the US from Mexico, and vowed to build a wall on the border. He adopted a similar approach before the 2018 midterm elections by warning voters that a “caravan” of people from Central America was winding its way through Mexico in the hope of reaching the US.

His renewed focus on immigration sets the stage for a presidential race where Mr Trump stresses the need to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the US, while the Democrats vying to win their party’s presidential nomination stress the need to take a more humane approach.

Over the past few months Mr Trump has focused his presidential political attacks on Joe Biden, the former vice-president who is leading the polls in the Democratic primary.

According to an average of recent polls compiled by Real Clear Politics, Mr Biden leads the Democratic primary race with 32 per cent, followed by Vermont senator Bernie Sanders on 15 per cent.

Mr Sanders has fallen as Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren has risen to 12 per cent, and in some polls overtaken him. The top three are followed by South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, with 7 per cent, California senator Kamala Harris also with 7 per cent, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke with 4 per cent and New Jersey senator Cory Booker with 2 per cent.

A number of recent polls have shown several of the Democrats beating Mr Trump in a head-to-head race, but many experts say that such surveys are largely pointless coming just under a year and a half before the election.

Mr Trump has faced harsh criticism for a policy that has seen many children separated from their parents after crossing into the US illegally. Many of the Democratic presidential contenders were quick to lash out at Mr Trump’s deportation threat, accusing him of inciting fear for political purposes.

“Threatening mass deportations is President Trump’s latest attempt to instil fear and hate in our immigrant communities for his own political gain,” Mr Booker said.

Mr O’Rourke tweeted that “militarising and raiding our communities makes us less, not more, safe”. Mrs Harris said mass deportations were cruel. “As this president rips more families apart, let’s remember that history has already shown us what happens when governments begin rounding people up by ethnic group. This would be a shameful stain on our country,” she said.

As the Democrats attempted to decide whether they wanted to nominate a more progressive candidate such as Mr Sanders or Ms Warren, or a more moderate contender such as Mr Biden, Mr Trump painted all the Democrats with the label of “socialism” in a bid to boost support from Republicans.
“America will never be a socialist country,” Mr Trump declared to loud cheers. “Republicans do not believe in socialism, we believe in freedom and so do you.”

Mr Trump lavished praise on his 2016 campaign, declaring that his “Make America Great Again” message was the best political slogan of all time. He then polled the crowd to determine if he should retain his MAGA message for the 2020 race or whether he should employ a new slogan: “Keep America Great”.

“I’m sorry MAGA country, but that wasn’t too close,” Mr Trump said after the crowd signalled their preference for the new slogan. “I thought you had it won. And then I heard this cheer [and] my eardrums will never be the same. Keep America Great.”