The Campaign Begins

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 8, 2019 — President Donald Trump used his State of the Union Address on Tuesday night to informally begin his re-election drive.

While some theorized that the president might decide not to seek a second term as we got closer to the primaries, the text of his speech told us just the opposite. In fact, instead of being a State of the Union Address, his subject matter and delivery made it closer to a campaign announcement speech.

In addition to using the address to frame the beginning of his re-election effort, the president also outlined what will likely become his key strategic tenets. In other words, he showcased the speech to begin painting the picture of his Democratic opponents that he wants the electorate to see.

It was clear from his emphasis points that Trump intends to create a clear contrast between he and the Democrats, and certainly the future party nominee whomever that may be, by attempting to position himself as the center-right candidate and driving his opponents into the far left ideological realm.

He also displayed the key points that will likely serve as the foundation for his campaign offensive: increasing jobs, economic prosperity, and the number of small businesses; re-emphasizing his America First theme with both the country’s allies and adversaries in relation to foreign affairs and trade issues; and, how the Trump Administration has made the world a safer place because of its foreign policy decisions and initiatives.

The president also used the speech as a tool to put the Democrats on the defensive, and even apparently shocked them at least a couple of times if their initial reaction is any indication.

President Trump, calling on the Congress to stop socialism, and his attack on the recently passed New York live birth abortion bill coupled with mentioning Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s statement seemingly supporting post-birth abortions, attempted to isolate his adversaries politically as a small minority while seeking to align himself with the majority opinion concerning these controversial subject areas.

It was also telling to observe what the president didn’t mention. At least two key areas were not part of the SOTU text likely because he and his advisors probably perceive the Democrats as having the upper hand in those areas. The speech contained no mention of climate change, and only briefly touched upon education. Polling consistently shows the Democrats maintaining clear advantages on environmental and education issues.

In the meantime, his eventual general election opponent may well have been in the House chamber on Tuesday night listening in person to his speech. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) have either announced their candidacies or formed a presidential exploratory committee. It is reported that Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar will follow suit this coming weekend. At various times during the speech their reactions to his various points were purposely captured by the television cameras.

Though we are still one year away from the first votes being cast in the Iowa Caucus and California primary, the campaigns are already beginning to form in earnest. On Tuesday night, President Trump clearly and boldly stepped back into the political campaign ring.

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