New York, June 19 : Veering between incumbent and insurgent, US President Donald Trump trumpeted the economic gains during his two years in office but also portrayed himself as an outsider as he hit out against the political establishment and the inquiries against him during the official launch of his 2020 re-election campaign.
Displaying his trademark flamboyance on Tuesday, he tried to make the attacks on him an attack on the 20,000 supporters packed inside a sports arena in Orlando, Florida, and his fervent backers elsewhere.
"They tried to take away your dignity and your destiny," he said of the Democrats reminding them that his 2016 rival Hillary Clinton had called his supporters "deplorable" and "irredeemable".
Immigration was threaded through his 75-minute speech as he railed against illegal immigration and the Democrats for in essence advocating an open border policy, but promising reforms to enable merit-based immigration of people who could contribute to the country while cracking down on those here illegally.
The speech was thin on foreign policy, except for rebuilding the military, getting China to be fair on trade and standing up to Russia.
Russia came up frequently, but in the context of the inquiry into the allegations of collusion between him or his 2016 election campaign with Moscow.
He denounced it as "the greatest political witch hunt in history", which a President should never undergo. He said that $40 million was spent on it and it only served to clear him of the accusations.
In a replay of the 2016 campaign, Trump went after Clinton, the Democrat who lost to him, as the crown chanted "Lock her up" as they had then.
He raked up the 33,000 or so emails she had erased and a private server that she used illegally. He said the emails may yet be found and that she should be prosecuted.
Trump ran the last time with the slogan, "Make America Great Again" (MAGA). The showman that he is, he asked his supporters to vote with their voices if that slogan or a new one, "Keep America Great" should be adopted for the reelection bid. The crowd cheered louder for the new one, which he said he will now use.
The Democrats have 21 official contenders for the nomination to run against him and 20 of them will start the first phase of debates next week, giving Trump a head start. With no official opponent yet, he made a half-hearted stab at front-runner Joe Biden, the former Vice President, ridiculing him as "Sleepy Joe", who didn't think it was possible to create jobs on the scale it has happened on his watch.
He reserved his strongest attacks on the left wing of the Democratic Party, which has strong contenders for the party nomination like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Without naming anyone, he said that Democrats were "unhinged" and voting for them would be "a vote for the rise of radical socialism and the destruction of the American dream".
Sanders responded in a tweet: "Things Trump didn't mention in his campaign kickoff: Climate change; Tens of millions live paycheck to paycheck; $1.5 trillion student debt crisis; Our infrastructure is crumbling; Minimum wage hasn't been raised in 10 years, (and) 40,000 people die from gun violence each year."
Trump boasted about the record-setting rise of the stock markets in his watch, the lowest unemployment rate in half-a-century, the thousands who moved from government assistance to paychecks, and, by his count, the opening of 60,000 factories.
Not a favourite of the minorities, he reached out them asserting that the unemployment rate for African Americans was the lowest ever, even as they were facing competition from illegal immigrants allowed in by Democrats and depressed wages.
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @arulouis)