Former president donald trump said Tuesday he will mount a third White House campaign, launching an early start to the 2024 race. The announcement comes just a week after a disappointing midterm performance for Republicans and will force the party to decide whether to embrace a candidate whose refusal to accept defeat in 2020 it brought American democracy to the brink.
“I am announcing tonight my candidacy for President of the United States,” Trump told an audience of several hundred supporters, club members and the press gathered in a chandeliered ballroom at his Mar-a-Lago club, where was flanked by more than 30 American flags and banners reading, “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
Trump enters the race at a time of political vulnerability. He had hoped to launch his campaign on the heels of overwhelming Republican midterm victories buoyed by the candidates he championed during this year’s primaries. Instead, many of those candidates lost, allowing the Democrats to retain the Senate and leaving the GOP with a path to only a slim majority in the House.
Far from being the undisputed leader of the party, Trump is now facing criticism from some of his own allies, who say it is time for Republicans to look to the future, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis emerging as a front-runner. favorites for the White House.
The former president remains popular with the Republican base. But other Republicans, including former Vice President Mike Pence, are taking increasingly public steps toward their own campaigns, raising the possibility that Trump will have to navigate a competitive Republican primary.
He is launching his candidacy amid a series of escalating criminal investigations, including several that could lead to indictments. They include the investigation of dozens of classified trademark documents that were seized by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago and ongoing state and federal investigations into his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Another campaign is a remarkable turnaround 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 Capitol in a deadly attempt to stop the peaceful transition of power on September 6. January. , 2021.
But Trump, according to people close to him, has been eager to return to politics and try to stem the rise of other potential challengers. Aides have spent the past few months preparing paperwork, identifying potential staff and sketching the contours of a campaign that is being modeled on their 2016 operation, when a small group of aides traveling between rallies in their private jet defied the odds and defeated better. funded and more experienced rivals exploiting deep political flaws and using shocking statements to attract relentless media attention.
Even after the losses for the Republican Party, Trump remains the most powerful force in his party. For years, he has consistently outscored his fellow Republican contenders by wide margins in hypothetical head-to-head matchups. And even out of office, he consistently draws thousands to his rallies and remains his party’s most prolific fundraiser, raising hundreds of millions of dollars.
But Trump is also a deeply polarizing figure. Fifty-four percent of voters in last week’s midterm elections viewed him very or somewhat unfavorably, according to AP VoteCast, a poll of more than 94,000 voters nationwide. And an October AP-NORC poll found that even Republicans have reservations about him continuing to be the party’s standard bearer, with 43% saying they don’t want to see him run for president in 2024.
Trump’s candidacy raises deep questions about America’s democratic future. The last days of his presidency were consumed by a desperate effort to stay in power, undermining the centuries-old tradition of a peaceful transfer. And in the two years since he lost, Trump’s persistent and baseless lies about widespread voter fraud have eroded trust in the nation’s political process. As of late January 2021, about two-thirds of Republicans said they did not believe President Joe Biden would be legitimately elected in 2020, according to an AP-NORC poll.
VoteCast showed that many Republican voters in the midterms continued to hold that belief.
Federal and state election officials and Trump’s own attorney general have said there is no credible evidence that the 2020 election was tainted. The former president’s fraud allegations were also roundly rejected by numerous courts, including Trump-appointed judges.
But that didn’t stop hundreds of midterm candidates from repeating his lies as they sought to win over his loyal base and win his coveted endorsement. In the end, many of those candidates lost their careers in a sign that voters rejected such extreme rhetoric.
While some Republicans with presidential ambitions, like former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, have long ruled out running against Trump, others have said he would not figure in their decisions, even before their midterm losses.
They include Pence, who published a book on Tuesday, and former Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as well as former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who ran against Trump in 2016. Other possible candidates include Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, South Carolina. Senator Tim Scott and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin. Trump is also likely to face challenges from members of the party’s anti-Trump wing, such as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, vice chair of the House committee that has been investigating Jan. 6.
But the person who has occupied Trump and his allies the most in recent months is DeSantis, whose re-election as governor last week was a bright spot for Republicans this cycle. The former congressman, who became a popular national figure among conservatives during the pandemic by pushing back against COVID-19 restrictions, shares Trump’s boxing instincts and has embraced fighting for social issues with similar zeal.
Even some enthusiastic Trump supporters say they are eager for DeSantis to run, seeing him as a natural successor to Trump without the former president’s considerable baggage.
Trump has already started lashing out at DeSantis publicly. On Tuesday, the governor of Florida responded.
“At the end of the day, I would just tell people to check out the score from last Tuesday night,” DeSantis told reporters.
A field packed with GOP rivals could ultimately play in Trump’s favor, as it did in 2016, when he prevailed over more than a dozen other candidates who split the anti-Trump vote.
Trump’s decision paves the way for a possible rematch with Biden, who has said he intends to run for re-election despite concerns from some in his party about his age and low approval ratings. The two men were already the oldest presidential candidates when they ran in 2020. Trump, who is 76, would be 82 at the end of a second term in 2029. Biden, who is about to turn 80, would be 86.
If ultimately successful, Trump would be only the second US president in history to serve two non-consecutive terms, following Grover Cleveland’s victories in 1884 and 1892.
But Trump enters the race facing daunting challenges beyond his party’s growing concerns. The former president is the subject of numerous investigations, including the month-long investigation into the hundreds of documents with classified marks found in boxes at Mar-a-Lago.
Meanwhile, Trump faces scrutiny from the Justice Department over efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is investigating what she says was “ a coordinated multi-state plan of the Trump campaign” to influence the results of 2020.
And in New York, Attorney General Letitia James sued Trump, alleging that his namesake company engaged in decades of accounting fraud by misleading banks about the value of its assets. The Trump Organization is also now on trial and faces criminal charges of tax fraud.
Some in Trump’s orbit believe that running will help protect him against possible impeachment, but there is no legal statute preventing the Justice Department from moving forward, or preventing Trump from continuing to run if he is impeached.
It was no secret what he had been planning.
At a White House Christmas party in December 2020, Trump told guests it had been an “incredible four years.”
“We are trying to do another four years,” he said. “Otherwise, I’ll see you in four years.”