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Trump To Launch Official Reelection Campaign In Orlando


Today's campaign kickoff is a far sight from four years ago when Donald Trump announced his longshot presidential bid from Trump Tower in Manhattan before a small crowd. This time around, he is packing an arena in Orlando, Fla. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is in Orlando. She's been talking to voters ahead of the rally. Hi, Tam.


SHAPIRO: So as we heard, the president is holding this rally as he tweets that his administration is going to deport more people who are in the country illegally. How is that going over with the Trump supporters who you've been talking to?

KEITH: What I can tell you is that they are very interested in immigration. They are very concerned about the numbers of people who have been crossing the border in recent months, and they feel like Congress isn't giving the president what he wants. You know, I've been talking to voters both here and in the area yesterday. And I'd ask people - you know, what is the most important issue to you? And again and again and again, they brought up immigration.

SHAPIRO: Describe the scene for us there in Orlando. I know people have been camping out for this rally. What's the atmosphere like?

KEITH: It's this, you know, festival atmosphere that often pops up around a Trump rally. There were people lined up, as you say. I came out at 8 o'clock this morning and walked around, and the line was very, very, very long. And then it turned into Woodstock because there was a massive thunderstorm - I mean, just an unbelievable thunderstorm and lightning and thunder. And there was a sign that went up on a big electronic board that said, we encourage you to take shelter. No one took shelter. Everybody stayed exactly where they were in line as mud just built up around them on the ground. They weren't about to get out of line.

SHAPIRO: OK. This is the mud part of Woodstock, not the free lover, psychedelics part of Woodstock.


KEITH: Yes, that's right - just the mud part, only the mud part (laughter).

SHAPIRO: OK. Tell us about the re-election campaign strategy here because putting on a big show for 20,000 people and the national media costs a lot of money. It's very complicated. The president already gets a ton of attention. What's the strategy here?

KEITH: Well - so there are a few things going on. One, as we know, the president has been holding these rallies basically since he won. And he declared that he was running for re-election at least officially on Inauguration Day. But there have been 23 Democrats who have declared that they are running for president. Many of them have held big rallies and gotten a lot of attention, and the president is seeking a bite at that apple now. He wants to be able to get that focus on this rally by saying that this rally is different than all the other rallies because it is - it's the launch of the re-election.

But the other thing is that the campaign is - it's a more sophisticated operation than it was certainly in the early stages of 2016. And so there are volunteers walking around with bright green shirts on, registering people to vote. You know, this very long line of people in the rain, they are making sure that every one of them is registered and that they will vote because, in fact, a lot of people that come to Trump rallies, according to the Trump campaign, are not traditional Republican voters. They aren't the kind of people that would necessarily be in their voter file. And so they are figuring out who they are. They say a hundred thousand people registered for tickets, even though only about 20,000 can get in. But they got names, email addresses and other contact information for a hundred thousand people.

SHAPIRO: And obviously, Florida is a very important state. It's no coincidence he's kicking off his campaign there. Where else do you expect to see President Trump in the months ahead?

KEITH: So he'll be back in Florida; we know that for sure. It's a key state in that he isn't president without winning Florida, and he needs it for re-election. But you can also expect to see him in those other states that he won very narrowly in the upper Midwest - Wisconsin, Michigan. And the campaign is stretching. They want insurance. And at this point, they have money. They've been fundraising since Inauguration Day. And they are stretching, trying to reach into states you wouldn't expect, like Minnesota or even New Mexico and New Hampshire, which Hillary Clinton won last time around.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith at President Trump's rally in Orlando, Fla. Thanks, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.