Donald Trump considers himself a legendary salesman, but can he really sell America on giving him four more drama-filled years at the White House?
Tuesday, he’ll make his big pitch.
The 2020 reelection kickoff rally is being held in Orlando, Florida and campaign operations chief Michael Glassner says the “historic” event “has already generated tens of thousands of ticketing requests.”
There’s little mystery about how the night will go down.
Expect Trump, the self-promoting hero of his ghost-written book “The Art of the Deal,” to claim the US economy is richer, the military stronger, and the country more respected than ever in history.
Expect ultra-loyal, core Republican supporters in red “Make America Great Again” baseball caps to chant “USA!”
When the president points to journalists covering the event, expect the crowd to boo.
In 2016, Trump was a novelty, a candidate so different and to many outrageous that few seriously thought he could beat his seemingly bulletproof Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
But this time around, everyone knows what to expect.
“The way he looks at it, it worked beautifully in 2016 when everyone else was wrong, so he’ll follow the same instincts and (believe he’ll) win again in 2020,” veteran University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato said.
“It may not be the right strategy, but it is Trump, and he’s incapable of reorienting himself.”
The sale never stops
While Tuesday is framed as a launch, the former reality TV actor and property dealer has never actually stopped campaigning since his 2016 bid opened with a choreographed ride down the Trump Tower golden escalator in New York.
Seeing himself as an outsider who prefers connecting directly with voters, rather than Congress or — even worse — the “enemy” media, Trump holds far more rallies than recent presidents.
As if following the script in a long-running play, each event barely differs.
First, Trump warms up the crowd with classic rock, then he comes out to tout his achievements in office, and to brag about his 2016 win, often harking wistfully back to the “day I came down with your First Lady on the escalator.”
The escalator has become such a mythical element in Trump’s narrative that son-in-law Jared Kushner — part of the extended Trump family presence in the White House – even considered recreating the scene for the 2020 bid, The New York Times reported.
Insomniac vs ‘Sleepy Joe’
Instead, Trump will rock the 20,000-seat Amway Center in Orlando, deep in a state whose 29 electoral college votes could help decide whether he gets to keep his job.
It’s the kind of scene that the president relishes and a perfect stage for his showmanship skills.
Just as he used to revel in over-the-top swaggering – often exaggerated – about his real estate triumphs, Trump hardly holds back on the campaign trail.
He does, in fact, have positives to trumpet.
The economy, traditionally the number one selling point for voters, is booming, with rock bottom unemployment and strong growth.
But to the despair of many Republican leaders, the 45th US president can’t help dropping from the news agenda’s sunny uplands into dark, seething valleys of grudges and conflicts – whether with personal Washington enemies or entire foreign countries.
The trade war with China that Trump once claimed would be “easy” is threatening to settle into a perilous new normal of permanent tariffs and tension.
The Mexican border wall, which he told his supporters would be paid for by Mexico, remains largely unbuilt, underfunded, and the source of often ugly debate across the country.
And while the two-year investigation into Trump’s Russia links may be over, the president appears incapable of letting go, most recently getting in hot water for saying he might not tell the FBI if a foreign government came to him with dirt on political opponents.
The constant controversy and scandal have left US voters angrier and more polarized than they have been for decades.
That makes the election unpredictable.
Democrats are not even close to picking their presidential candidate from a long list of more than 20. And whichever figure gets the nomination, he or she faces a savaging from Trump.
Frontrunner Joe Biden, who was vice president under Barack Obama, has already been indelibly branded “Sleepy Joe.”
Still, polls show Biden ahead of Trump and several Democrats believe they can make him a one-term president.
Trump may even end up regretting his “Sleepy Joe” jibe if Biden does get the nomination, says New York Times columnist Gail Collins.
“Americans may start asking themselves whether they’d rather have a president who sleeps through the night or one who’s up at 5 a.m. sending out tweets with a lot of misspelled words,” Collins wrote.