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May 7th, 2019

We complete this first portion of our series on the Making of the President 2020 (profiles of the candidates) with a look at President Donald Trump's re-election campaign, one that begin virtually as soon as the President took office on January 20, 2017.

President Trump began spending for his reelection effort within weeks of his election. He officially filed his campaign with the Federal Election Commission on the day of his inauguration. Since February 2017, Trump has held a number of rallies and fundraisers for the campaign and he has visited several key electoral states. His campaign has raised funds and run two nationwide advertising campaigns. President Trump has announced that the slogan for the 2020 race will change from "Make America Great Again" to "Keep America Great". On November 7, 2018, Trump confirmed that Mike Pence would be his vice presidential running mate in 2020.

After his 2016 election victory, the President broke with presidential tradition and retained a separate campaign committee, which has continued raising funds for his re-election. In December 2016, the campaign raised $11 million. Spending on the 2020 race began on November 24, 2016 (sixteen days after the end of the 2016 election), with the earliest campaign disbursement reported to be the purchase of a Delta Air Lines ticket for the 2020 campaign.

Trump officially filed his reelection campaign with the FEC on January 20, 2017, the day of his inauguration, earlier in his presidency than any of his predecessors did. In recent times no president has filed earlier than nineteen months prior to the date of the election. His February, 2017 rally in Melbourne, Florida was the earliest campaign rally for an incumbent president. By filing for his campaign as early as he did, the President got an early start on fundraising, something that helps to discourage primary challengers.

President Trump will be 74 years old on election day 2020, making him the oldest-ever presidential nominee on a major party ticket. Ronald Reagan and Bob Dole, were age 73 when they were the Republican Party nominees in 1984 and 1996, respectively. If President Trump is reelected, it would be the first time in American history that there have been four consecutive presidents who were elected to two terms. If Trump completed his second term on January 20, 2025, he would be 78 years old and would have become the oldest person to serve as president, surpassing Reagan (who was 77 when he left office in 1989).

According to the Associated Press, a data analysis firm named Data Propria, launched in May 2018 to provide ad-targeting services, is working on public relations for the Trump 2020 re-election campaign. Presidential approval ratings have shown Trump to be one of the least popular presidents in the history of modern opinion polling. Presidential job approval is highly partisan, with the President averaging an 87% job approval among Republicans and 8% among Democrats. Independents average 36%.

On January 10, 2017, Politico reported that President Trump would be keeping his campaign offices in Trump Tower. The campaign offices at Trump Tower already included a staff of about ten people led by Republican strategist Michael Glassner, and his deputy, John Pence, nephew of Vice President Mike Pence. On January 18, the President said, in an interview with The Washington Post, that he had decided Keep America Great would be his 2020 reelection campaign slogan. Two days later, on the day of his inauguration, President Trump filed a form with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) declaring that he qualified as a candidate for the 2020 presidential election. The first rally organized by the campaign was held on February 18, 2017, in Melbourne, Florida, and was attended by an estimated 9,000 supporters. This was the earliest an incumbent president had ever held a campaign rally. By February 1, 2017, the campaign had already raised over $7 million.

On February 24, 2017, President Trump spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference. On March 4, there were a series of local rallies held in 50 cities. The campaign's second rally was held a month later in Nashville on March 15, and coincided with the 250th birthday of Andrew Jackson. Prior to the rally, the President laid a wreath at Jackson's tomb. During the rally, he promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act. A third rally was held by the campaign in Louisville on March 20. At the rally, Trump once again promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act. By mid-April the Trump campaign had a staff of around twenty employees. A fourth campaign rally was held on April 29 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which coincided with the hundredth day of the Trump presidency. The event also took place the same night as the White House Correspondents' Dinner, which the President did not attend. Vice President Pence also spoke at the April 29 rally.

On May 1 the campaign announced that they were spending $1.5 million on national advertisements celebrating President Trump's accomplishments in the first hundred days. The ad claimed that the "fake news" media refused to report the successes of the administration, and because of this accusation, CNN decided to stop running the ad. ABC, CBS and NBC later joined CNN in refusing to play the ad.

On May 18, Trump hosted chairmen of the Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania state Republican parties at the White House. Each of their states are considered to be swing states. On June 1, President Trump announced his plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement saying, "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris." Soon afterwards, the campaign announced it would hold a Pittsburgh Not Paris Rally across from the White House. The rally was held June 3 at Lafayette Square, sponsored by the Fairfax County Republican Committee and the Republican Party of Virginia. The president made June presidential visits to the swing-states of Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

President Trump held his fifth official campaign rally in Cedar Rapids in eastern Iowa on June 21, 2017. On June 28, the president hosted a fundraiser at his company's hotel in Washington, D.C. for the Trump Victory Committee, a joint fundraising committee that raises funds for both his reelection campaign and the RNC. This was the first presidential campaign fundraiser. The event raise approximately $10 million. The media were barred from the event. Trump held his sixth campaign rally on July 25 at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown, Ohio. A seventh campaign rally was held at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, West Virginia on August 3. At the rally, West Virginia's Governor Jim Justice made the surprise announcement that he was changing his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican.

On August 13, the Trump campaign released an advertisement entitled, Let President Trump Do His Job. The ad was released on the day before violent far-right protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. The ad included clips of various journalists, including several that work at CNN. CNN refused to play the ad, prompting campaign chairman Michael Glassner to call CNN's decision “censorship".

President Trump held his eighth campaign rally on August 22 at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona, the campaign's first event in the Western United States. Before attending the rally, President Trump toured a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility. At the rally, President Trump threatened to shut down the U.S. Federal Government if he was unable to secure funding to construct a border wall. The day after his speech in Phoenix, Trump made his first presidential visit to Nevada (a swing state) for an American Legion event in Reno.

On September 26, Trump also attended a campaign fundraising dinner hosted by the Republican National Committee (RNC) in New York City. The event was reported to have raised nearly $5 million, with major donors spending up to $250,000 to dine with President Trump. A fundraiser scheduled for Dallas on September 27, was canceled by its organizers in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. On October 25, the president traveled to Texas for a fundraiser hosted by the Dallas County Republican Party for both the RNC and his reelection campaign.The event was closed to the media.

On February 25, 2018, the Drudge Report announced that the president had chosen Brad Parscale as the campaign manager for his re-election campaign. On March 10, Trump held a rally in Moon Township, Pennsylvania. He declared that his 2020 campaign slogan would be "Keep America Great!". On March 13, Trump made his first trip to the state of California as president to attend a campaign fundraiser at the Beverly Hills home of Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Ed Glazer. In 2018, President Trump once again skipped the White House Correspondent's Dinner, holding a rally on the same night in Washington, Michigan. On June 20, President Trump held a rally in Duluth, Minnesota supporting Republican Congressional candidate Pete Stauber in the 2018 midterm elections. He traveled to the Nevada Republican Convention in Las Vegas on Saturday, June 23, and also appeared on the trip at a fundraiser for U.S. Senator Dean Heller. On June 27, the president held a rally in Fargo, North Dakota, supporting Representative Kevin Cramer in his challenge to sitting Senator Heidi Heitkamp.

In February of 2019, a state-by-state effort was launched by President Trump's campaign team to oppose any presidential challenges from within the Republican Party. The first rally of 2019 took place at the El Paso County Coliseum, in El Paso, Texas on February 12. From February 28 to March 3, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC took place in National Harbor, Maryland. On the last day, President Trump made a two-and-a-half hour long speech, which was covered live by C-span and Fox News.

On March 28, the President held a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, during which he praised the Muller Report for his "exoneration" and called on Democrats to apologize for the Russia investigation and to stop the "ridiculous bullshit."

Thus far, President Trump has not donated any of his own money to his reelection campaign. At the end of the first quarter of 2017, the campaign reported raising a combined $13.2 million, the majority of which had come from small donors. Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC) ultimately raised a combined $55 million in the first quarter. On March 17, 2017 the campaign saw its highest single-day contribution total, with the campaign and its joint-fundraising-committee raising a combined total of $314,000. On April 14, 2019 the campaign announced that it had raised $30 million in the first quarter of 2019, far outpacing the campaigns of his individual Democratic opponents in the same period. Average donations were $34.26, and nearly 99 percent of donations to the campaign were $200 or less. In addition, the Republican National Committee brought in $45.8 million in first quarter 2019. As of March 2019, Trump's campaign had spent almost twice as much on Facebook and Google ads as the entire Democratic field combined.

On January 23, 2019, The Republican National Committee, in a unanimous vote, informally endorsed the president. Super PACS supporting President Trump's reelection campaign include Committee to Defend the President, Great America PAC, and Great America Committee. In late January 2017 several members of President Trump's 2016 campaign staff formed America First Policies, a pro-Trump political nonprofit.

Currently, President Trump trails most prospective Democratic opponents in head to head polls, as shown by the snapshot below. It is of course far to early to determine how this will compare to the poll that counts in November, especially when one factors in the electoral college. History will reveal itself in the next 18 months.


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