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Trump touts economic growth, hits Democrats for socialism, calls Russia investigation “great illegal witch hunt”
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
ORLANDO (CFP) — To shouts of “Four More Years” and “Build The Wall” from an exuberant capacity crowd, President Donald Trump formally kicked off his 2020 re-election campaign Tuesday night with a stem-winding speech in the key swing state of Florida.
“We did it once, and we’re going to do it again,” Trump told the crowd at the Amway Center in Orlando, many of whom had waited hours in the summer sun and braved thunderstorms for the chance to get inside. “And this time, we’re going to finish the job.”
“I have news for Democrats who want to take us back to the bitter failure and betrayals of the past. We are not going back.”
The president also unveiled the new tagline for his 2020 campaign: “Keep America Great,” building on 2016’s theme of “Make America Great Again.”
During his hour-long speech, Trump touted the nation’s robust economy, lower unemployment, tax cuts and appointment of conservative judges as evidence of his administration’s accomplishments.
But he also spent the first part of his speech relitigating the Russia investigation, which he called a “great illegal witch hunt” designed to overturn the results of 2016 election.
“No president should ever have to go through this again. It’s so bad for our country,” he said. “No collusion, no obstruction. And they spent $40 million on this witch hunt.”
The president largely avoided mentioning his potential 2020 Democratic opponents by name in his speech, except for a single reference each to “Sleepy Joe” Biden and “Crazy Bernie” Sanders.
However, in a likely preview of next year”s campaign, he offered biting criticism of the Democratic Party, which he said had embraced socialism and was “more radical, more dangerous and more unhinged than at any point in the history of our country.”
“America will never be a socialist country. Ever,” he said. “Republicans don’t believe in socialism. We believe in freedom, and so do you.”
Trump also blamed Democrats for what he termed “illegal mass migration” and accused them of “moral cowardice” for being unwilling to fix an immigration system that he branded as a “disgrace.”
The president also leaned in on his hard-line trade policy that has drawn criticism even from some Republican members of Congress, insisting tariffs have revived the American steel industry and let China know that “the days of stealing American jobs … are over.”
Fans of the president began lining up outside the Amway Center, which seats 20,000 people, some 40 hours before the speech began.
Trump told the crowd that 120,000 people had requested tickets for the rally, which marked an unusually early campaign kickoff for an incumbent president.
The president carried Florida in 2016 on his way to winning the Electoral College, and the Sunshine State will again be a state he’ll need to secure a second term.
Orlando sits in the I-4 corridor, a swath of Central Florida that often plays decisive roles in statewide elections.
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Southerners are part of a group of 44 former senators who penned an open letter in the Washington Post
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Twelve former Southern senators have joined an open letter calling on current senators “to be steadfast and zealous” in guarding democracy amid “serious challenges to the rule of law” flowing from investigations of President Trump and his administration.
“It is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security,” wrote a bipartisan group of 44 former senators in the letter, which was published December 10 in the Washington Post.
The former senators cited a “convergence” between special counsel Robert Muller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and additional investigations likely to be launched by the incoming Democrat-led House.
“We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld,” they wrote.
“At other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy. Today is once again such a time.”
The letter was signed by 32 Democrats, 10 Republicans and two independents who served in the Senate between the 1970s and 2015. Among the signatories were 12 Southerners, including 11 Democrats and a lone Republican, John Warner of Virginia. The list includes:
- Arkansas: David Pryor (D, retired 1996) and Blanche Lincoln (D, defeated 2010)
- Florida: Bob Graham (D, retired 2004)
- Georgia: Sam Nunn (D, retired 1996), Wyche Fowler (D, defeated 1992) and Max Cleland (D, defeated 2002)
- Louisiana: Bennett Johnston (D, retired 1996) and Mary Landrieu (D, defeated 2014)
- Tennessee: Jim Sasser (D, defeated 1994)
- Virginia: Warner (R, retired 2008) and Chuck Robb (D, defeated 2000)
- West Virginia: Jay Rockefeller (D, retired 2014)
The seats of all of the Southern Democrats who signed the letter, except for Robb, are now in Republican hands. Warner’s seat is now held by a Democrat.