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Team Trump faces troubles on eve of official 2020 presidential campaign kickoff

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

Posted: June 17, 2019
Last Updated: June 17, 2019

Donald Trump speaks at an event outside the White House in Washington on June 14. While he has held regular rallies across the U.S. since his inauguration, he'll officially launch his 2020 re-election campaign at an event Tuesday night in Orlando, Fla. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

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Trump, the sequel

There are still 505 days remaining until the 2020 U.S. presidential election. But the race for the White House is already well underway.

Tomorrow night in Orlando, Donald Trump will officially launch his re-election campaign with a rally that is expected to draw 20,000 people to the city's basketball arena, and be celebrated via almost 800 "watch parties" across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the infrequently mentioned North Mariana Islands.


There will be few surprises.

Trump filed his re-election paperwork on the day of his January 2017 inauguration. He revealed his slogan, "Keep America Great," last fall. And his themes — the dangers posed by crime and immigration, the strength of the U.S. economy, and his own superiority to any challenger — remain unaltered from that last time around.

Trump reacts to supporters after addressing a Trump 2020 re-election rally in Montoursville, Penn., on May 20. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

As a sitting president, Trump enjoys a considerable advantage over the standing-room-only field of 23 challengers for the Democratic nomination. Not least of all when it comes to money.

By the end of April, the official re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee had combined cash on hand of $82 million US. Add in the "outside" Super PAC money and it's $120 million, more than all of the Democrats combined.

And unlike 2016, Trump has actually built out the traditional campaign infrastructure, with operatives already in place in all the battleground states, and a well-appointed Virginia war room that has been dubbed the "U.S. Dept. of Winning."

Yet, things don't appear to be going at all well.


Over the weekend, the Trump campaign fired several of its pollsters in an angry reaction to leaked data that showed the president trailing Joe Biden, the leading Democrat, in key states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, often by double digits.

Protestors attend a demonstration calling for the impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump on June 15 in New York City. (David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

The president had originally denied that the polls were real: "Those polls don't exist," Trump told ABC News last week. "I'm losing in 15 out of 17 states? Those polls don't exist."

Now, his campaign simply says that the numbers are old.

Trump faces some daunting challenges.

Despite 71 per cent of Americans feeling that now is a "good time to find a quality job," the country is split on whether the economy is getting better or about to take a turn for the worse.

Trump's 42.5 per cent approval rating marks him as the second-least-popular modern president at this point in their terms, behind only Jimmy Carter, who went on to carry just five states in his failed 1980 re-election bid.

After two-and-half-years in office, Trump can point to his tax cuts and adding two conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court as big wins, but not much else. There is no  border wall. Obamacare is still in place. It turns out that trade wars aren't so easy to win. And the opposite strategies of cozying up to North Korea and applying "maximum pressure" to Iran have both so far failed to neutralize the perceived nuclear threat.

Trump waves to supporters at a Make America Great Again rally in Green Bay, Wis., on April 27. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

His indifference to the nuts and bolts of governing is also striking.

As of today, there remain 131 key jobs — ambassadorships, chief financial officers, the Secretary, Deputy Secretary and Undersecretary of Homeland Security — for which the Trump administration has yet to even identify a candidate.

Tomorrow night, Trump will take the stage and follow a familiar script, mocking his adversaries, boasting of greatness — America's and his own — and trying once again to tap into a current of outrage.

"First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they call you racist," was the message he shared in a video earlier this spring. "Your vote proved them all wrong."

All that's left to be filled in is the 2020 campaign song.

Last time, it was You Can't Always Get Want You Want by the Rolling Stones.

The band repeatedly asked him to stop, but it didn't change a thing.

Shifting ground

In southern Canada, climate change has largely meant changing weather. In the North, it's causing massive changes to the very landscape underfoot and what's built on top of it, reporter Susan Ormiston writes.

Quick: how much of Canada is covered in permafrost — icy soil and rock frozen for more than two years?

It's 40 to 50 per cent, mostly in the Northern Territories but also covering the northerly parts of six provinces.

"We can think of permafrost as sort of the glue that holds the northern landscape together, and when the climate is cold or stable, permafrost provides a foundation," says Steve Kokelj, a geologist with the Northwest Territories government.

But the iciest permafrost in Yukon and Northwest Territories is thawing more extensively than scientists had predicted, a function of the Arctic warming at a rate two times greater than the rest of the world.

The Mayor of Tuktoyaktuk, Merven Gruben, tells Susan Ormiston that the land is changing quickly in his community as temperatures rise. (Mia Sheldon/CBC)

For a day this month, we drove the Dempster, Canada's most northerly highway linking southern Canada to the Arctic, and we didn't have to look hard to see the results of that warming. In one valley, for example, a large chunk of the road embankment has collapsed as warmer, wetter weather has clawed away at the permafrost.

"Looking forward, we need to be able to predict and anticipate the areas or the environments that are going to cause us problems, and either be prepared to develop innovation to deal with those areas or avoid them altogether," Kokelj says.

The big problem the North is already grappling with is that much of the infrastructure — highways, housing and buildings — is constructed on top of permafrost which, until recently, acted as a reliable icy foundation.

"The whole community, the whole infrastructure of the whole North, the whole highway you drove in on, it's all over permafrost," says the Mayor of Tuktoyaktuk, Merven Gruben.

Thawing is causing landslides, subsidence, and unstable buildings. In Tuktoyaktuk, people are being forced to move their homes inland from the coast, for fear their houses will slide into the sea.

As rising temperatures melt the permafrost, the terrain in the North is being changed by landslides and erosion, like this stretch of the embankment along the Dempster Highway. (Mia Sheldon/CBC)

"I meet a lot of people in the south, and what's amazing is a lot of people don't even know about it. They know where 'Tuk is. But they don't believe this global warming thing is actually happening," Gruben says.

"You know when you live it breathe it, you see it every day, it's amazing the changes in a few years."

Tonight on The National, we'll show you a sinking church in Inuvik and homes at risk in Tuktoyaktuk on the edge of the Beaufort Sea; all signs of Shifting Ground because of climate change.

- Susan Ormiston

This story is part of the CBC News series In Our Backyard, which looks at the effects climate change is having in Canada, from extreme weather events to how it's reshaping the economy:

The Moment 

Raptors victory parade.

Raptors centre Serge Ibaka and teammates spray champagne over the crowd from the top of an open double-decker bus Monday during the team's victory parade through Toronto. (Albert Leung/CBC)

Quote of the moment

"I asked him why he risked his life for magic. He smiled and said, 'If I do it right, it's magic. If I make a mistake, it becomes tragic.'"

Jayanta Shaw, a local newspaper photographer, on Indian magician Chanchal Lahiri who has gone missing and is presumed to have drowned while attempting a Houdini escape trick in the Hooghly river in West Bengal.

Chanchal Lahiri, known by his stage name 'Jadugar Mandrake,' is lowered into the Ganges river in Kolkata on Sunday, while tied up with steel chains and ropes as part of a Houdini-inspired stunt. He went missing during the performance and is feared to have drowned, police said Monday. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

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Today in history

June 17, 1997: Canadians love Kraft Dinner

The Americans invented it, but for some reason it is Canadians who love it best, scarfing down 75 million boxes a year of the safety-vest-orange pasta. Why? Underdeveloped taste buds? Some sort of societal penance? A shared national death wish? The mystery endures.

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Examining the popularity of the fluorescent orange meal.  6:07

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Jonathon Gatehouse
Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.