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Trump Is Clinging on to Hillary Clinton Like Grim Death — Is It Actually Working?

The president’s reelection campaign claims it raised over $24 million on Tuesday alone

President Donald Trump speaks during his re-election kickoff rally at the Amway Center, in Orlando, FlaElection 2020 Trump, Orlando, USA - 18 Jun 2019

President Donald Trump speaks during his re-election kickoff rally at the Amway Center, in Orlando, Florida.

Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock

President Trump filed the paperwork to run for reelection on January 20th, 2017, the day he was inaugurated. He officially announced his intention to seek a second term just over a year later, earlier than any president in history. The “launch” that took place in Orlando Tuesday night was nothing more than an excuse to raise money, hold another rally and, one would think, lay out a fresh set of issues to campaign around for the next 17 months. This didn’t happen.

What Trump said over the course of the near hour-and-a-half he spent onstage at the Amway Center was no different than what he’s said at any of his previous rallies, nor was it much different than what he said when he was running for president the first time. He whined about the press; he demonized immigrants; he called Democrats anti-American and, nearing on three years after the 2016 election, he continued to bash Hillary Clinton and reminisce about his first campaign.

“33,000 emails deleted!” Trump brayed. “Think of it!”

The crowd — including a giddy Lindsey Graham, who once called Trump “completely unhinged,” and Marco Rubio, who once said Trump couldn’t be trusted with the nuclear codes — loved it. So did Fox News, which may be more obsessed with Clinton than Trump is. As Matt Gertz of Media Matters pointed out earlier on Tuesday, Sean Hannity has mentioned Clinton on every edition of his show since May 1st (and likely well before that).

The trend continued following Trump’s rally in Orlando when Dan Bongino praised the president for how he “absolutely blistered Hillary Clinton” during his speech. “Good for him for taking on the other side,” said the Secret Service agent-turned-presidential fluffer. “I gotta tell you, it was one of his best performances today. He did a really great job.”

Trump has circled back around to Clinton again and again partly because he’s a vindictive narcissist who can’t let go of the fact that she dared oppose him in 2016, and partly because there isn’t much else to say. Trump has no real plan for America other than conning people into thinking he’s working on their behalf, and there are only so many ways to say Democrats want to destroy the country. He exhausted most of them on Tuesday. “They wanted to deny you the future you demanded, and the future that America deserved, and that now America is getting,” Trump droned early in his speech. “Our radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice and rage. They want to destroy you, and they want to destroy our country as we know it.”

So bereft of substance is Trump’s reelection bid that he decided to go ahead and say he was going to cure cancer and AIDS — and, what the hell, put Americans on Mars. “We will push onward with new medical frontier. We will come up with the cures for many, many problems, including cancer and others, and we’re getting closer all the time,” he said. “We will eradicate AIDS in America once and for all, and we’re very close. We will lay the foundation for landing American astronauts on the surface of Mars.”

The president’s promise to cure “cancer and others” isn’t new (although trotting it out last night may have been in response to Joe Biden’s promise last week to cure the disease that killed his son Beau in 2015). During his State of the Union address in February, Trump said he would fund a push to rid America of AIDS and cure pediatric cancer within 10 years. The drive to eradicate the former has largely been the work of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who in February laid out a pathway to doing so in a blog post titled, “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America.”

On Tuesday, Politico reported that Azar is now sparring with multiple White House officials, and that many believe “Trump’s trust in his health secretary has eroded.”

Though Trump’s message is resonating among his supporters, it’s still unclear whether it will be fresh enough for the rest of the nation. So far, most polls show him getting slaughtered in various hypothetical general election matchups, including a Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday. More importantly, his top donors don’t appear to be as enthusiastic about his campaign as they were in 2016.

On Tuesday, Vanity Fair reported that support from the billionaire Mercer family, Trump’s largest backer in 2016, is now “gone.” Another billionaire supporter, John Catsimatidis, recently attended a fundraiser for Biden in New York. Catsimatidis did not donate to Biden and says he still supports Trump, but he reportedly spoke with the front-running Democrat for around 10 minutes.

Though the support of billionaires may be in question, his fundraising numbers appear to be doing just fine — his campaign says he raised over $24 million on Tuesday.

If Trump is irked by his poor poll numbers — which, given that he recently fired his pollsters, he is — he didn’t show it at the rally on Tuesday night, which made clear  that he’s going to try to win in 2020 by running the exact same campaign he ran in 2016. He even concluded his speech with an all-too-familiar refrain: “Together, we will make America wealthy again! We will make America strong again! We will make America safe again! And we will make America great again! Thank you, Orlando, Florida!”

 

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