On June 16, 2015, Trump announced his candidacy for President of the United States at Trump Tower in Manhattan. In the speech, Trump discussed illegal immigration, offshoring of American jobs, the U.S. national debt, and Islamic terrorism, which all remained large priorities during the campaign. He also announced his campaign slogan: "Make America Great Again". Trump said his wealth would make him immune to pressure from campaign donors. He declared that he was funding his own campaign, but according to The Atlantic, "Trump's claims of self-funding have always been dubious at best and actively misleading at worst."
Vice President Mike Pence strongly denied charges lodged by an August 5 New York Times report, which speculated that the Vice President was orchestrating a "shadow campaign" for the presidency in the 2020 election. Pence called the accusations "disgraceful and offensive" and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway called the story a "complete fiction, complete fabrication".
Sherrod Brown, an Ohio senator, hails from a crucial swing state and has strong labor backing. He’s never seemed interested in a presidential run — until now. A finalist in the 2016 Democratic veepstakes, he would be formidable in Rust Belt states. His politics match the mood, and while he might not have the raw talent of Senator Warren, he’d be a strong Plan B.
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. Mark Knoller noted, "By my count, this will be Pres Trump's 10th political fundraiser since taking office. 9 of 10 were closed to press coverage including today."
Trump favored changing the 2016 Republican platform to affirm women's right to abortion in the three exceptional cases of rape, incest, and circumstances endangering the health of the mother. He has said that he is committed to appointing pro-life justices. He personally supports "traditional marriage" but considers the nationwide legality of same-sex marriage a "settled" issue.
It is widely assumed among Trump advisers that Kushner, who was instrumental in the hiring of Parscale, will depart the White House at some point after the midterms to oversee the 2020 campaign. “The entire reason Brad got the job is because he was acceptable to the Trump kids,” a former White House official said. “Eric loves the guy, and Don does, too.” Since February, Parscale has been working from an office in the Republican National Committee’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. “He’s been cleaning up data, gearing up for post-2018,” said a Trump adviser. Trump advisers I spoke with view Parscale as an extension of Kushner. After the 2016 election, Trump was annoyed that Kushner received so much credit for the win, even appearing on the cover of Forbes with an ear-to-ear grin above the headline THIS GUY GOT TRUMP ELECTED. The reality is that no matter what campaign structure takes shape, Trump views himself as his own campaign manager. “I’m the strategist,” Trump told me back in 2016.
Most Republican strategists I spoke to agreed that Trump will face a primary challenge from the Never Trump wing of the party, which has been clipped since the 2016 election. Possible primary candidates include Senators Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, and Ben Sasse; and Ohio governor John Kasich. “My sense is someone is going to challenge Trump,” said Ed Rollins, Ronald Reagan’s ‘84 campaign manager who now advises the pro-Trump Great America PAC. “I don’t think it’ll be a viable candidate. Someone like Flake or Kasich, they’re just more of a nuisance. Trump has the base.” (A Gallup poll in June showed that Trump’s 87 percent popularity among his party is the second highest in modern presidential history, behind Bush 43 post-9/11.) If there’s one historical data point that should worry Trump advisers, it’s that incumbent presidents in the modern era who faced primary challenges failed to win the general election.
The relationship between Trump, the media, and fake news has been studied. One study found that between October 7 and November 14, 2016, while one in four Americans visited a fake news website, "Trump supporters visited the most fake news websites, which were overwhelmingly pro-Trump" and "almost 6 in 10 visits to fake news websites came from the 10 percent of people with the most conservative online information diets". Brendan Nyhan, one of the authors of the study by researchers from Princeton University, Dartmouth College, and the University of Exeter, stated in an interview on NBC News: "People got vastly more misinformation from Donald Trump than they did from fake news websites".
Honduran migrants taking part in a caravan heading to the US, sleep in the main square of Ciudad Tecun Uman, Guatemala, in the border with Mexico, on Oct. 20, 2018. Thousands of migrants who forced their way through Guatemala's northwestern border and flooded onto a bridge leading to Mexico, where riot police battled them back, on Saturday waited at the border in the hope of continuing their journey to the United States. Orlando Sierra, AFP/Getty Images
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. During the rally, Trump defended his actions and criticized the media. He referred to a nonexistent incident that had supposedly happened in Sweden the previous night, while criticizing the asylum policies of several European countries. After backlash from the press and the Swedish government, Trump stated that he was referring to a Fox News program aired the previous day.
Honduran migrants attempt to cross the border Goascoran River to enter illegally to El Salvador, in Goascoran, Honduras on Oct. 18, 2018. President Donald Trump threatened to send the military to close its southern border if Mexico fails to stem the "onslaught" of migrants from Central America, in a series of tweets that blamed Democrats ahead of the midterm elections. MARVIN RECINOS, AFP/Getty Images
Bannon was also pleased that his group had Trump’s ear. A rivalry had developed between Trump’s outside advisers and the White House political shop, and Bannon’s group was winning. “The war room should be done by the White House, but there’s no one there competent enough or hardworking enough to do it,” he told me. “You got the ‘hardcores’ on the outside who understand Trump’s message, understand Trump, understand the base and what got him here and what takes him to the next level.” In June, Trump ignored the advice of Stepien and DeStefano and gleefully plunged into G.O.P. primaries. Trump even tweeted that he was defying their counsel. “My political representatives didn’t want me to get involved in the Mark Sanford primary, thinking that Sanford would easily win,” he wrote on June 13. “Sanford was so bad, I had to give it a shot.” In late June, according to a source, Trump flew to South Carolina against Stepien and DeStefano’s wishes to campaign for South Carolina governor Henry McMaster, who was fending off a tough primary challenge. McMaster won.
On May 9, 2017, Trump dismissed FBI Director James Comey. He first attributed this action to recommendations from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, which criticized Comey's conduct in the investigation about Hillary Clinton's emails. On May 11, Trump stated that he was concerned with the ongoing "Russia thing" and that he had intended to fire Comey earlier, regardless of DoJ advice.
Trump's predecessors merged their campaign committees into their party's committee following their election victories. Following his 2016 election victory, Trump eschewed this presidential tradition and retained a separate campaign committee. Trump's campaign committee continued raising funds. In December 2016, the campaign raised $11 million. These moves indicated that Trump was already eying a 2020 run.