Forget “Make America Great Again.” And perhaps it’s time to put a stop on those “Keep America Great” ball caps and T-shirts. President Donald Trump might be poised to recycle a former foe’s campaign slogan.
The former reality television star will return to the trail Thursday evening with a 7 p.m. EDT rally in Cincinnati, eager to try again securing Ohio as he seeks to rebuild his 2016 Electoral College win. And when he does, expect the usual survey to ask his supporters if “MAGA” should be replaced by “KAG.”
The in-venue contest of which cheers are louder rarely is decisive, and Trump never definitively states which slogan he prefers.
In fact, over the last six days alone, the president has fired off tweets using shorthand for both his 2016 “Make” slogan and the “Keep” one he has yet to formally declare the theme of his reelection bid. It often seems he plans to use both.
For tonight’s #DemDebate, be sure to follow @TeamTrump, @TrumpWarRoom, @Parscale, @KayleighMcEnany, @TimMurtaugh, and @Marc_Lotter for RAPID RESPONSE, FACT CHECKING, and the TRUTH! #MAGA #KAG Sorry, I’m on Air Force One, off to save the Free World!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 26, 2019
But then came a curious moment following the second night of the second 2020 Democratic primary debate.
Trump went to Twitter a couple times during and after the Detroit debate, which saw former Vice President Joe Biden turn in a steadier performance while several other candidates also appeared to have solid nights. In one post, the president used both slogans he has floated for months on the trail.
“The people on the stage tonight, and last, were not those that will either Make America Great Again or Keep America Great!” Trump wrote in a two-tweet thread, also referring to the Democrats’ Tuesday night debate, necessary to fit the nearly two dozen candidates on one stage.
But he ended that short thread with this: “We will only grow bigger, better and stronger TOGETHER!”
…It will soon be time to choose to keep and build upon that prosperity and success, or let it go. We are respected again all around the world. Keep it that way! I said I will never let you down, and I haven’t. We will only grow bigger, better and stronger TOGETHER!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 1, 2019
Wait a second, right? Political observers have indeed seen the last two words before — for months and months in 2016. It was the campaign slogan of the 2016 Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Some former Clinton aides noticed immediately.
Jesse Ferguson, a press secretary for her 2016 White House bid, quote-tweeted the president by using the same capitalization his former boss did on campaign signs, merchandise and event backdrops.
Stronger Together pic.twitter.com/uwCvp1aHHC
— Jesse Ferguson (@JesseFFerguson) August 1, 2019
The president in recent weeks has changed his tune after for years saying he defeated Clinton in part because she was a subpar candidate whom he outworked in crucial swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin. Now, however, he calls her a “fighter,” saying none of the 2020 candidates have her grit and toughness.
Trump has yet to hit the campaign trail in earnest, but aides say he will busily jet across the country next year as he seeks a second term. As he prepares his strategy, the president increasingly focuses on Biden as the most likely candidate to emerge from the crowded Democratic field.
“I am watching. I think, right now, it will be ‘Sleepy Joe.’ I think. I feel he’ll limp across the line. That’s what I think,” Trump told reporters Tuesday as he left the White House for an event in Williamsburg, Virginia. “So what I think doesn’t mean anything, but I know the other people. I know him. I think he’s off his game by a lot. But, I think, personally, I think it’s going to be ‘Sleepy Joe.’”
Trump has repeatedly used that nickname for Biden, whom multiple polls give a nearly double-digit lead over the president in a hypothetical head-to-head race, to suggest the 76-year-old former vice president and senator is too old to be commander in chief.
For his part, Biden again on Wednesday evening made a pitch to voters that he is the lone 2020 candidate who can oust Trump from the Oval Office.
“This most consequential election any one of you has ever participated in,” Biden said. “Four more years of Donald Trump will go down as an aberration. Hard to overcome the damage he’s done. We can overcome it.”