Trump officially announces 2024 presidential bid: ‘America’s comeback starts now’
Posted November 15, 2022 5:02 am.
Last Updated November 15, 2022 8:49 pm.
Former President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he will mount a third White House campaign, launching an early start to the 2024 contest.
The announcement comes just a week after an underwhelming midterm showing for Republicans and will force the party to decide whether to embrace a candidate whose refusal to accept defeat in 2020 pushed American democracy to the brink.
“America’s comeback starts now. I am tonight announcing my candidacy for president of the United States,” Trump said to an audience of several hundred supporters, club members and gathered press in a chandeliered ballroom at his Mar-a-Lago club, where he stood flanked by more than 30 American flags and banners that read, “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
“Two years ago, we were a great nation, and soon, we will be a great nation again.”
Trump enters the race in a moment of political vulnerability. He hoped to launch his campaign in the wake of resounding GOP midterm victories, fueled by candidates he elevated during this year’s primaries. Instead, many of those candidates lost, allowing Democrats to keep the Senate and leaving the GOP with a path to only a bare majority in the House.
Far from the undisputed leader of the party, Trump is now facing criticism from some of his own allies, who say it’s time for Republicans to look to the future, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis emerging as an early favourite White House contender.
The former president is still popular with the GOP base. But other Republicans, including former Vice President Mike Pence, are taking increasingly public steps toward campaigns of their own, raising the prospect that Trump will have to navigate a competitive GOP primary.
Another campaign is a remarkable turn for any former president, much less one who made history as the first to be impeached twice and whose term ended with his supporters violently storming the U.S. Capitol in a deadly bid to halt the peaceful transition of power on Jan. 6, 2021.
Just one president in U.S. history has been elected to two non-consecutive terms: Grover Cleveland in 1884 and 1892.
Trump is also facing a series of intensifying criminal investigations, including a Justice Department probe into the hundreds of documents with classified markings that were discovered in boxes and drawers at his Mar-a-Lago club.
But Trump, according to people close to him, has been eager to return to politics and try to halt the rise of other potential challengers.
Aides have spent the last months readying paperwork, identifying potential staff and sketching out the contours of a campaign that is being modelled on his 2016 operation, when a small clutch of aides zipping between rallies on his private jet defied the odds and defeated far better-funded and more experienced rivals by tapping into deep political fault lines and using shocking statements to drive relentless media attention.
But Trump is also a deeply polarizing figure. Fifty-four percent of voters in last week’s midterm elections viewed him very or somewhat unfavourably, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 94,000 voters nationwide.
An October AP-NORC poll found even Republicans have their reservations about him remaining the party’s standard-bearer, with 43 per cent saying they don’t want to see him run for president in 2024.
Aides and allies had urged Trump to wait until after the midterms were over — and then until after a Dec. 6 Senate runoff election in Georgia — to announce his plans.
Trump has tried to blame Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell for the GOP’s performance — and McConnell allies have criticized Rick Scott, the Florida senator who heads the Senate Republicans’ campaign committee.
However, Trump has received the brunt of criticism for elevating candidates in states like Pennsylvania and Arizona who were unappealing to general election voters because they embraced his lies about the 2020 election or held hard-line views on issues like abortion that were out of step with the mainstream.
While Trump has the backing of the No. 3 House Republican, Rep. Elise Stefanik, others were already moving on.
Asked whether she would endorse Trump in 2024, Republican Sen. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming told reporters Monday: “I don’t think that’s the right question. I think the question is, who is the current leader of the Republican Party?”
Asked who that was, she replied: “Ron DeSantis.”
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, a longtime Trump critic, compared Trump to a pitcher who keeps losing after GOP disappointments in 2018, 2020 and now 2022.
“He’s been on the mound and lost three straight games. If we want to start winning, we need someone else on the mound. And we’ve got a very strong bench that can come out,” Romney said.
“There are some fans that love him. Just like an aging pitcher, they’re always fans that want to keep them there forever. But if you keep losing games, try to put some new players on the field.”
Others expressed concern that Trump’s announcement would be a distraction from the Georgia race and urged potential candidates to focus there.
“What’s really important for anybody who wants to be a 2024 candidate is to help us right now in 2020 to finish the cycle by winning the state of Georgia,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.
“We obviously had a higher expectation in the Senate, which didn’t pan out. I think there are a lot of different things that contribute to that,” Thune added. “But I do think that you know, folks who were unduly focused on the 2020 election, that’s not a winning strategy with independent voices.”
Even the former president’s right-flank allies in the House Freedom Caucus kept their distance ahead of Trump’s announcement.
“I am focused on what’s happening here,” said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., the Freedom Caucus chairman, as lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill on Monday. “I’m just not paying attention to any of those things, so I don’t want to comment on that.”
Meanwhile, in Utah, 86 Republican lawmakers on Monday sent out a news release urging DeSantis to run, reflecting dissatisfaction with having Trump as their party’s standard-bearer. The state’s Mormon majority has long been skeptical of Trump’s isolationism and foul language.
And in Michigan, Paul Cordes, chief of staff of the Michigan Republican Party, penned a four-page internal memo that criticized Trump-backed candidates for “statewide sweeps” that will give Democrats full control of the state’s government for the first time in 40 years. That includes Tudor Dixon, who lost the governor’s race to Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer by double digits.
Trump, Cordes wrote, was “popular amongst our grassroots and a motivating factor for his supporters, but provided challenges on a statewide ballot, especially with independents and women in the midterm election.”