Trump, an outsider-become-insider, sells himself as a rebel for 2020

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Jill Colvin, Jonathan Lemire and Zeke Miller, Associated Press

Published Tuesday, 18 June 2019 12:23 CET

Last updated Tuesday, 18 June 2019 18:39 EDT

ORLANDO, Fla. – Four years after the launch of one of the most unlikely successful presidential races in history, President Donald Trump officially kicked off the Tuesday sequel, still offering himself as a political outsider – but this time from the Oval Office .

Trump, who launched his latest campaign at the Trump Tower, headed to a mega-rally in Orlando, hoping to replicate the dynamics that allowed him to capture the Republican Party and then the presidency in 2016 as a rebel upset the status quo. It's a more embarrassing step to do now that it's in the White House.

The president's advisers said he aims to link the points between the promise of his disruptive candidacy for the first time and his goals for another term in the White House. His promise to shake the state ship is now more than an abstract commitment, though complicated by his tumultuous 29 months at the helm.

Each president is inherently an insider. Trump has worked at the White House for two years, travels through the skies on Air Force One and changes the course of history with a pen stroke or a tweet post.

"We are taking on the failure of the political establishment and restoration of the government of, to and from the people," Trump said in a video released by his campaign on Monday.

That populist clamor was a central theme of his first political adventure, as the man of business who became a candidate turned successfully to dissatisfied voters who felt left behind by economic dislocation and demographic changes. And he has no intention of abandoning it, even though it is the face of institutions that seems to disturb.

He stressed that on the eve of the event in the state of Florida's must-win swing, returning to the issues of the hard-line immigration of his first campaign by tweeting that, next week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement "will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal foreigners who have illegally found themselves in the United States ". That promise, which gave no details and sparked democratic condemnation, seemed to offer a peek into a campaign that will largely be fought along the lines of its first offer, with very few new policy proposals for a second term.

The leader of the first Democrats, Joe Biden, said Tuesday that Trump's policy is "all about dividing" in ways that are "dangerous – really, really dangerous".

But those involved in the president's re-election effort believe that his blatant version of populism, combined with his "Drain the Swamp" mantra, still resonates, despite the intimate ties of his administration to lobbyists and corporations and apparent efforts of the Trump family to profit from the presidency.

Experts believe that, at a time of extreme polarization, many Trump supporters consider their support for the president as part of their identity, not easily shaken. They indicate his seemingly immovable support with his grassroots supporters as proof that, despite more than two years in office, he is still seen in the same way as he was as a candidate: the political rebel who throws bombs.

On Monday, a boisterous crowd of thousands of Trump supporters, many of them with red hats, began to gather outside the Orlando Amway Center, where the campaign had organized a festival with live music and food trucks.

They spent Tuesday challenging showers and listening to a cover band that played the rock standards of the south as "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd while they waited for Trump's arrival. Sellers sold water, as well as pins, hats and t-shirts with slogans including "Trump 2020" and "ICE ICE Baby", a reference to the police office charged with enforcing immigration laws. In the heat of the 80's, some women wore "Make American Great Again" swimsuits.

"Trump was the best president we've ever had," said Ron Freitas, a retired and registered Democratic sailor from the Orlando area, sitting on a beach chair. Freitas said he was sure that Trump would prevail over whoever was his democratic opponent.

Alex Fuentes, a municipal diesel mechanic, wore a t-shirt that said "Make the Democrats cry again". He said he was a veteran of Iraq who voted twice for Barack Obama but separated from Democrats like Hillary Clinton, especially for foreign policy.

"There are many minorities hidden from Trump supporters," Fuentes said.

Hundreds of anti-Trump protesters applauded and photographed when a 6-foot (6-meter) airship of a Trump child snarling in a diaper was inflated. The airship resembles the one that flew to London during Trump's recent state visit, but it's not the same.

"The goal is to get under his skin," said the airship manager Mark Offerman.

Protester Shaun Noble was wearing a rainbow sign saying "Super, Insensitive, Fragile, Racist, Sexist, Nazi, POTUS".

Noble's mother was at Trump's demonstration while he was at the anti-Trump protest.

"It really caused a division in our relationship," Noble said. "But it is my right to believe in what I want to believe, and it is his right to believe in what he wants to believe."

Some members of the extreme right-wing hate group, Proud Boys, were spotted marching in Orlando and at least twice tried to enter the street where the anti-Trump protest took place. They were stopped by groups of police officers and deputies. As they walked away, a man from the Proud Boys group said, "We're just Americans, this is a sad day."

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Lemire brought back from New York. Associated Press authors Hannah Fingerhut, Josh Replogle and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

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