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As his Florida kickoff rally nears, Trump is fixated on maintaining his base

Noah Bierman, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- Early in his improbable 2016 run for president, Donald Trump boasted he could shoot someone in the middle of New York's Fifth Avenue and "I wouldn't lose any voters, OK?"

President Trump will kick off his reelection campaign Tuesday at a rally in Orlando, Fla., and he is likely to make a full-throated pitch to keep his ardent supporters in line. Polls suggest he is right not to take his base for granted.

Trump won last time by holding Republican areas in the South and West, and cracking Democratic strongholds in a handful of key Rust Belt states, by focusing on immigration, trade and the alleged misdeeds of his opponent. Whether he can do so again is an open question.

"It's never locked down," Emily Ekins, director of polling for the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, said of Trump's political base. "There's never a coalition that's unbreakable."

"You always have to have your base, but it sure helps to have a majority in American elections," said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster whose clients include Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a former rival to Trump.

Trump is behind in early polling, losing in theoretical matchups with some Democratic primary candidates in battleground states, including Florida.

 

Trump will speak Tuesday night in downtown Orlando, a city considered a linchpin of the voter-rich Interstate 4 corridor that crosses the diverse state. Some fans lined up outside the 20,000-seat Amway Center on Monday, more than a day before Trump is scheduled to take the stage.

Trump won Florida last time, but it almost always is decided by a hair-thin margin in presidential elections. He has spent as much time courting voters in the state as anywhere else, suggesting his campaign believes the state will once again be in play.

Trump began campaigning for reelection days after he won in 2016, holding nine victory rallies before he moved into the White House. All were in states he had won -- including Florida, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Michigan -- foretelling the political strategy Trump has embraced since taking office.

Since then, he has rarely sought to expand his appeal, as other White House incumbents have done. Instead, the president has geared his rhetoric, policies, travel and campaign apparatus almost exclusively toward the voters who unexpectedly put him in office.

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