- The Washington Times - Monday, June 17, 2019

President Trump will officially launch his reelection campaign Tuesday in Florida, with polls showing he has Democrats right where he wants them: beating him in nearly every survey.

It’s the same position in which Mr. Trump found himself four years ago, when he was a Washington outsider instead of the incumbent with a bully pulpit.

In July 2015, just after Mr. Trump announced his candidacy, polls showed him trailing Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton by 20 percentage points. He lagged behind her throughout the 2016 campaign, until he won on Election Day.

The president said Monday that it’s too soon to pay attention to polls that show him losing — in some cases by as many as 10 percentage points — to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and three other Democratic contenders for the nomination.

“Only Fake Polls show us behind the Motley Crew,” Mr. Trump posted on Twitter. “We are looking really good, but it is far too early to be focused on that. Much work to do! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”



Ever the showman, Mr. Trump predicted an enormous crowd for his Florida launch, saying big movie screens will be set up outside for the overflow outside the Amway Center, which seats 20,000 and is home to the NBA’s Orlando Magic. He will be joined by first lady Melania Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen.

While the president and his campaign are billing the event as the official kickoff of his reelection bid, Mr. Trump has been campaigning since his inauguration. He has held 61 campaign rallies since February 2017, including five this year, in Texas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida and Pennsylvania.

Thanks in part to those well-attended rallies, Mr. Trump’s campaign has amassed a war chest of more than $40 million. People who registered for Tuesday’s rally have given their names, phone numbers and ZIP codes to the campaign, and many of them will receive texts and emails seeking donations in the weeks ahead. Still, there are those polls bearing bad news for the incumbent. A Fox News poll on Sunday found that Mr. Trump trails the top five Democratic candidates in each of their head-to-head matchups, and he never tops 41% support.

At roughly the same point in President Barack Obama’s reelection bid, in July 2011, Mr. Obama led four potential Republican rivals — Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Sarah Palin — by 6 to 19 percentage points in a Quinnipiac University poll.

Mr. Trump was reportedly irate over the weekend about leaked internal polls from March that showed him trailing Mr. Biden in key states in a hypothetical matchup. His campaign team on Sunday dropped three pollsters and kept two.

One of the remaining pollsters, John McLaughlin, said the president is “on his way to reelection,” despite surveys showing otherwise, because pollsters “don’t know how to analyze” Trump voters.

“The polls, when they’re not done well, and they’re done as cheaply and inefficiently as they were done back in 2016, they’re going to be wrong again,” Mr. McLaughlin told New York radio host John Catsimatidis. “They’re doubling down on poor science at the time. And they don’t know how to analyze these Trump voters because they don’t like talking to the media because they know the media is like 90% negative coverage of their president.”

Conservative Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show Monday, “Donald Trump will trail in the polls until November 2020, just like before. It doesn’t matter who Democrats run — this will be the case. Just watch.”

Trump campaign national press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Monday that internal polling shows Mr. Trump “is leading in all 17 swing states against a defined Democrat.”

“When the Democrats started mentioning socialism, when they started mentioning these radical policies, we saw movement toward the president,” she said on Fox News. “We’re very comfortable with where we stand, so don’t believe this story.”

The choice of Florida for the launch rally underscores the importance of the perennial battleground state and its 29 electoral votes. Among the Trump campaign’s 11 regions nationwide, Florida is the only state that the campaign has designated as a region unto itself, for purposes of resource allocation and chain of command issues.

As Mr. Trump takes the stage to formally usher in the 2020 campaign, America First Policies, a nonprofit that supports the Trump agenda, will start a $20 million voter registration drive among people who line up outside the arena.

The group estimates there are 9 million unregistered, eligible voters for the taking in Florida. It also is targeting potential voters in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia. Mr. Trump won these electoral-vote-rich states in 2016 and likely will need to again.

“There are millions of patriotic Americans who believe in the America First movement but aren’t registered to vote,” said America First Policies President Brian Walsh. “Returning power to the people requires an active, engaged citizenry.”

Chris Carr, a regional political director of the joint Republican National Committee and Trump campaign operation called Trump Victory, said in a memo Monday that the RNC is in the midst of a national week of training about 4,400 volunteers and neighborhood organizers at 250 sites across the country to help get out the vote for Mr. Trump and other Republican candidates next year.

The Democratic National Committee launched a “war room” effort to combat Mr. Trump’s message in the days leading up to the rally. They argue that the president has failed the middle class on issues such as health care, jobs, education and the environment and would fall short again in a second term.

“New campaign, same broken promises. Trump will say anything to win an election, and then he never follows through,” DNC spokesman Daniel Wessel said. “Look where we are today — health care costs more, prescription drugs cost more, and all Trump’s done is help the rich and big corporations. The question voters need to ask is: What’s he done for me? For working people, the answer is nothing.”

The DNC said it plans to fact-check Mr. Trump’s rally in real time and highlight his “dwindling” path to the 270 electoral votes needed to win reelection.

It’s a long way until the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, but Mr. Biden’s front-runner status has rankled the president.

Mr. Trump has characterized Mr. Obama’s No. 2 as “mentally unstable,” weak on China and unable to deliver for Pennsylvania, a critical swing state where Mr. Biden could make inroads with his blue-collar appeal and Scranton roots.

The president is handicapping the rest of the field, too. He has derided Mr. Sanders as “crazy” and Ms. Warren as “Pocahontas” for her claims of American Indian heritage. The president says those two round out the big three, dismissing a surging Pete Buttigieg as not much of a threat.

Murmurs of a Trump challenge in the primaries, meanwhile, have largely fizzled.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld is mounting a primary challenge, but he has shown no signs of eating into Mr. Trump’s grip on the party. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican with wide appeal in a deep-blue state, decided against a challenge.

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