WILKES BARRE, PA - AUGUST 02: President Donald J. Trump speaks to a large crowd on August 2, 2018 at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes Barre,...
Rick Loomis

How can a campaign that never ended begin anew?

For Donald Trump, today is a special day: it’s the official start of the president’s re-election campaign.

President Trump will announce his reelection campaign Tuesday in Orlando, where he will be greeted by a tailgate party as well as protesters and the orange “Baby Trump” balloon loved by his critics.

Trump and Vice President Pence are making their 2020 candidacy official with a rally expected to pack a 20,000-seat arena, with thousands more outside. Supporters began lining up outside the Amway Center arena a day early, local news outlets said Monday.

The venue has a certain thematic quality: Amway is a multi-level marketing company, led by the DeVos family, which includes prominent Republican mega-donors (and a member of the president’s cabinet).

And while I imagine Trump will make a variety of familiar claims – and peddle a variety of familiar falsehoods – from the stage in Orlando this evening, one of the questions hanging over the festivities is simple: can a campaign that never ended begin anew?

It’s easy for some political observers to forget, but Trump’s focus on the 2020 election has been a constant of his presidency. The Republican filed a re-election letter with the Federal Election Commission on Jan. 20, 2017 – literally the first day of his term.

The president also began fundraising for the 2020 cycle before he was even sworn in, “pulling in tens of millions of dollars in the months after his election and through his inauguration.”

There’s no modern precedent for such an aggressive fundraising schedule, but Trump did it anyway.

He also kept open his campaign office’s headquarters, hired staff to work on his 2020 bid in early 2017, and headlined a swing-state campaign rally in February 2017 – not quite one month into his presidency, and 44 months before Election Day 2020.

The Wall Street Journal noted last week, “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.”

Of course, Barack Obama wasn’t just concerned about appearances: his principal focus was on governing, not campaigning.

For Trump, the dynamic has always been flipped.

When the Republican announces this evening that he’s seeking a second term, it will arguably be the single most redundant presidential announcement ever. Trump started running in June 2015 and simply never stopped.

Donald Trump

How can a campaign that never ended begin anew?