President Trump’s 2020 re-election bid starts Tuesday with a rally in Orlando, Fla., more than two years after making clear he would seek a second term.
Holding a launch rally after the campaign effectively gets under way is hardly a new political play; President Obama announced his 2012 re-election bid more than a year before his first official rally, and early Democratic 2020 front-runner Joe Bidenheld his “kickoff rally” about a month after he entered the race.
Still, Mr. Trump has ushered in a new style of presidential politicking with his perpetual campaign mode. His predecessors waited well into their first terms before making their intentions known and avoided overt campaigning so early in the primary process.
At a recent event in Iowa, Mr. Trump suggested he hadn’t shifted fully into his campaign gear, declaring: “This isn’t political season quite for me. It’ll start next week.”
Mr. Trump and his team believe this is the right moment to re-assert his campaign prowess, as their operation has expanded and the Democratic primary field appears set. They selected the battleground state of Florida to stake their claim with one of the large-venue gatherings that defined the president’s 2016 operation.
“The campaign wants to flex its muscles to show how much better they are than any of the Democratic campaigns,” said GOP consultant Alex Conant. “What Trump is going to do in Orlando, no Democratic candidate could do.”
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The Orlando event is expected to include first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, as well as the president’s adult children, said people familiar with the planning. It has been in the works for more than six weeks and is likely to usher in a more active campaign schedule.
On the day of his inauguration, Mr. Trump filed a re-election letter with the Federal Election Commission, though that letter did say that it didn’t “constitute a formal announcement of my candidacy.” A month later, he held his first campaign-style rally, in Florida, telling the crowd: “I’m here because I want to be among my friends and among the people.”
Many Democrats seeking the presidency have announced a campaign or an exploratory committee first and held a rally or formal launch later—often seeking to make a symbolic point in the process. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts announced an exploratory committee before holding an official rally a little over a month later at the site of a historic labor strike. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont declared his plans on public radio and later held a rally in his native Brooklyn. Pete Buttigieg announced an exploratory committee a few months before formally launching his campaign in the Indiana city where he is mayor.
When seeking re-election, past modern presidents have taken their time to shift into politics, believing that campaigning can diminish the power of the White House. Mr. Obama launched with a video announcement in April 2011 and didn’t hold his first rally for over a year. President George W. Bush filed with the FEC in May 2003 and didn’t campaign overtly until the following year.
“Obama and Bush didn’t enjoy campaigning as much as Trump. They were very much consumed with world affairs,” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, a Rice University professor.
Said Mr. Brinkley of Trump: “He sees himself as a leader of a movement. He has tried for some months to be a normal president and not be in campaign mode. He hunkers back down into the movement when he has a chance.”
But former Trump campaign aide Barry Bennett argued that there were advantages to staying in campaign mode.
“I don’t know if any of the old rules apply any more. The news cycle is continuous and now politics is continuous,” Mr. Bennett said.
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