The Memo: Can Trump run as an outsider?

President TrumpDonald John TrumpCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Outgoing inspector general says Trump fired him for carrying out his 'legal obligations' Trump hits Illinois governor after criticism: 'I hear him complaining all the time' MORE is running for reelection as an outsider candidate. But it’s a knotty challenge for someone who holds the world’s most powerful office.

Trump’s speech in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, which officially launched his 2020 bid, was rife with rhetoric portraying himself — and by extension his supporters — as victims of nefarious elites.

The president said that he and his allies were besieged by a “permanent political class” and “an unholy alliance of lobbyists and donors and special interests.”

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“Our patriotic movement has been under assault from the very first day,” Trump insisted at one point. Moments before, he told the crowd, “the swamp is fighting back so viciously and violently.”

It’s the kind of language that makes Democrats roll their eyes. Trump, they note, is a billionaire property developer, born into wealth, who won the presidency on his first attempt — yet he portrays himself as the tribune of “the forgotten men and women of our country” whom he invoked in his January 2017 inaugural address.

But Trump’s unconventionality might, in itself, help him retain some kind of outsider cachet in a way that is unusual for an incumbent president.

“For any other president, yes, it is a challenge,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist who worked for Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioMomentum grows to change medical supply chain from China Confusion surrounds launch of 9B in small-business loans Trump officials report billions in small business loans on first day of program MORE (R-Fla.) in the 2016 presidential primaries.

“But Trump is unlike any other president. Trump has been at war with the establishment since the moment he set foot in the White House,” he said.

It is certainly true that Trump was viewed with suspicion by the Republican Party from the time he began his presidential run — and that his language and attitudes are viewed with distaste by much of the Beltway political class.

But dislike for Trump’s personal antics is hardly confined to D.C. elites.

A Pew Research Center poll in March showed pluralities of the public believing that he was not “trustworthy,” “even-tempered” or “well-informed.”

For all Trump’s supposed concern with less affluent Americans, 56 percent of the respondents in the Pew poll said they did not believe he cared about “people like me,” whereas just 40 percent said he did care.

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The GOP has largely made peace with him, with former rivals including Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham asks colleagues to support call for China to close wet markets Justice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court Trump says he's considering restricting travel to coronavirus 'hot spots' MORE (S.C.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGeorgia governor says he didn't know asymptomatic people could spread coronavirus McConnell: Impeachment distracted government from coronavirus threat Warren knocks McConnell for forcing in-person Senate vote amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (Ky.) becoming enthusiastic supporters, congressional dissenters such as former Rep. Mark SanfordMark SanfordTrump becomes presumptive GOP nominee after sweeping primaries Boston Globe endorses Trump's GOP challenger Bill Weld Trump challenger Bill Weld rules out 2020 independent bid MORE (R-S.C.) having been defeated in primaries and Trump now in firm control of the party apparatus.

Skeptics also point to both policies and personnel — from the steep cut in the corporate tax rate in 2017 to the 16-month run of the ethically challenged Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: House stimulus aims to stem airline pollution | Environmental measures become sticking point in Senate talks | Progressives propose T 'green stimulus' Court sides with scientists on EPA policy barring grantees from serving on agency boards Overnight Energy: Senate energy bill stalled amid amendment fight | Coronavirus, oil prices drive market meltdown | Green groups say Dem climate plan doesn't go far enough MORE as head of the Environmental Protection Agency — as evidence that the swamp has remained undrained under Trump.

But Trump allies are insistent that the president’s feel for the cultural mores of blue-collar America remains a potent and underrated political weapon.

“He is certainly an outsider to the political establishment. They still don’t get him and he is not coming around to their way of thinking,” said Barry Bennett, who worked as a senior adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign. “He may live inside the gates but he does not live inside the establishment. … I don’t know anyone who believes he has become some kind of Georgetown socialite.”

Michael Caputo, a longtime Trump friend, insisted, “I have never ever met anyone, any Trump supporter, who believes anything else besides the fact that he’s an outsider.”

There is clearly a political dividend to be gained if Trump can hold onto his outsider image.

In the recent past, voters in presidential elections have often chosen the candidate seen as less steeped in the ways of Washington.

Former President Obama won election twice as a change agent, initially winning the White House as the first black president and then securing a second term over GOP nominee Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyOutgoing inspector general says Trump fired him for carrying out his 'legal obligations' Trump selects White House lawyer for coronavirus inspector general Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill MORE, the personification of a genteel Republican establishment.

Former President George W. Bush had only a tenuous claim to outsider status, given he was the son of a president — yet his campaign was able to paint then-Sen. John KerryJohn Forbes KerryUS inaction is hurting the chance for peace in Libya Poll: More Republican voters think party is more united than Democratic voters Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much MORE (D-Mass.) as a creature of Washington in the 2004 presidential election.

Before that, former President Clinton used his down-home Arkansas image as a weapon against an incumbent president, Bush’s father, George H.W Bush, and then won a second term over another GOP establishment favorite, then-Sen. Bob Dole (Kan.).

Independent observers acknowledge that Trump’s style, divisive though it is, could help him be seen as much more of a disruptor even than these recent predecessors.

“It’s almost impossible for an incumbent to run as an outsider, but Trump has held onto that credential,” said Tobe Berkovitz, a Boston University professor who specializes in political communications. “He is parlaying that into how he sees himself — running against the Democrats, the media, the elites.”

Republicans, meanwhile, argue that Trump’s outsider image could be especially useful if Democrats pick former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Biden to host 'virtual fireside chat' with donors Esper faces tough questions on dismissal of aircraft carrier's commander MORE as their nominee.

Biden, in their telling, is much easier to brand as a creature of Washington given his decades in the Senate. There will be a different challenge if Democrats instead choose one of Biden’s rivals who is a fresher face on the national political scene, such as Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenMomentum grows to change medical supply chain from China Why Gretchen Whitmer's stock is rising with Team Biden Democrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog MORE (D-Mass.) or Sen Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisWhy Gretchen Whitmer's stock is rising with Team Biden Enlisting tech to fight coronavirus sparks surveillance fears Biden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats MORE (D-Calif.); or more radical, such as Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Cuomo's been good, but he's not going to be the Democratic nominee Does Joe Biden really want to be president? MORE (I-Vt.).

Trump, billionaire Manhattanite though he may be, has long used the idea that he is sneered at by a snobbish elite to his own advantage.

On Tuesday, he told his supporters that Democrats “want to destroy you.”

It was a stark and visceral remark even by Trump’s standards.

But, after his 2016 victory, even his critics can’t be so sure it won’t work.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.