President Donald Trump filed for reelection more than two years ago. He has held frequent campaign rallies since he was inaugurated. He nevertheless decided to call his rally on Tuesday in Orlando his official kickoff. He had about as many attendees as the fifth-place Democrat, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (who drew 20,000 in Oakland, California) had at her kickoff. Only Fox News carried Trump's rally live in its entirety, because this was nothing new. And I mean nothing new.
He attacked the media. He intimated that his attorney general might investigate Hillary Clinton. He falsely accused the media of not covering the crowd. He decried the Russia investigation as a "hoax." He falsely alleged that Democrats are for open borders (not a single one in the presidential race or in Congress, to my knowledge, takes that view). He claimed to protect Americans with preexisting conditions (although his administration has sued to wipe out all of the Affordable Care Act, including this protection). He pledged to build the wall. It was a string of grievances, exaggerations and outright lies. Worse, it was a rerun. You'd be forgiven for thinking this was a 2016 or 2017 rant. When you cannot tell what season a program is from, maybe it's time to change the format -- or the host?
The boring-Trump phase of his presidency underscores three problems.
First, his polling is miserable. He loses in national polling match-ups to multiple Democrats, and his state polls (which count in the electoral college system) are even worse than his national numbers. (He had to fire his pollsters when the leaked internal numbers confirmed how poorly he's doing.) The percentage of voters who definitely won't vote for him is more than 50 percent in many polls. If all he is doing is repeating the same lines that alienated more than half the voters, it stands to reason that he's not going to recapture the voters he needed to win in 2016.
Second, try as he might to jazz things up, he's not promising anything new to his supporters. He has said before that he'll lock up Clinton, build the wall, etc. What's there to look forward to? Hence, the "Keep America Great" slogan -- the ultimate status quo message. For every American who thinks things aren't great now (student debt? medical costs? unaffordable housing? international chaos?), that's not much of an attraction. Indeed, it sounds like none other than the Clinton 2016 message -- Everything's fine. Don't rock the boat.
Third, he doesn't have a whole lot to run on. His demagoguery has not solved the border issue. His tax cut is unpopular with all but the rich and his hard-core base (there's a good deal of overlap there). He has not given up trying to get rid of Obamacare and has yet to produce a super-duper plan that is any better. The United States isn't more respected now - more isolated, more distrusted, more erratic, maybe. He has "ended" no wars and seems game on starting a new one. He's not gotten anything out of North Korea or the Chinese.
He has judges to crow about to his hard-core base as well as the economy - and yet is still hugely unpopular. And if the economy slows (not out of the question, by any means, given his trade war), he'll have nothing to talk about except Clinton (really, we're going to go another 18 months hearing him grouse about her?), the media and "criminal" immigrants -- which explains why his rally seems like every other one.
Trump, of all people, should know that you can't run the same program over and over without losing audience share. He's incapable of adopting a new script, so the only solution is to get a new star/host. After all, many Americans elected him for sheer entertainment value, and you have to keep them coming back for something new and exciting.