Trump's post-Covid pivot away from "Keep America Great"

“KAG” seems to have gone MIA.

President Trump hasn’t used the phrase “Keep America Great” in two months, according to Factba.se, an online database of Trump’s public statements and tweets.

The last time he used it was March 5, in a tweet thanking a man who said he was a former Democrat who voted for Trump in 2016 and would vote for him again.

“We will continue MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN and then, KEEP AMERICA GREAT!!!!” Trump wrote, tweeting out a clip of the man from a Fox News town hall.

Trump doesn’t use the phrase himself anymore, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely vanished. The campaign includes it in several ads running now, though it’s far from the centerpiece of their messaging.

“Keep America Great” appears in text as part of a Trump logo at the beginning of the campaign’s recent “American Comeback” ad, but the ad ends with a voiceover of Trump saying “Make America Great Again.”

Screenshot of the Trump campaign’s “American Comeback” ad

On Facebook, the campaign is running ads promoting “Keep America Great” hats, however, they have spent less than $700 on these ads so far this month, a tiny sliver of the more than $600,000 they spent on Facebook ads in the past seven days.

Screenshot of a Trump campaign Facebook ad

Meanwhile, in the title sequence of the campaign’s daily Team Trump Online show, “Keep America Great” is absent, while a voiceover of Trump saying “Make America Great Again” is played at the end.

KAG skeptic

Trump seemed hesitant about “KAG” from the beginning, even though he trademarked it before he took office. He publicly stated he wasn’t sure if he liked it as much as “Make America Great Again,” and at his formal reelection kickoff rally last June, the old slogan was literally written across the stage Trump spoke on. MAGA, he said, was “the greatest of all time,” and if he lost his reelection, he said he’d blame it on the slogan rebrand. An official “Keep America Great” hat wasn’t released until two months later.

Since then, Trump’s long-planned reelection slogan has only seemed to sour.

Trump used to tout “Keep America Great” as a pro-capitalist message during speeches last year where he attacked socialism. But without Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as the Democratic nominee, that specific definition is harder to justify.

“Keep America Great” suggests America’s greatness has been restored. It’s a vague goal that Trump himself said wasn’t yet met in his March 5 tweet. With the U.S. now leading the world in confirmed deaths related to Covid-19 and unprecedented job loss, greatness feels even further away.

The campaign’s “American Comeback” ad revises Trump’s reelection messaging from the stationary “keep” slogan to a more active “comeback.” The ad is light on facts, heavy on praise, and was rated as deceptively edited by the Washington Post. It features a Blue Angels flyover and what amounts to the MAGA II mantra: “We built the greatest economy the world has ever seen, and we’re going to do it again,” Trump says.

The “greatest economy” line is one Trump repeats frequently, and fact checkers have debunked it as not true. Still, framing his 2020 campaign as a comeback allows Trump to run on sky-high promises despite his record or the current circumstances, a position usually only available to non-incumbents.

Maybe Trump was wise to not dump “Make America Great Again” right away after all.