After months of stoking speculation, Donald Trump finally announced his candidacy for president on November 15, 2022.
“This was a great country two years ago… and in two years, it will be great again,” he vowed, flanked by a dozen American flags.
The former president from the Republican Party spoke for more than 40 minutes in front of an adoring crowd, packed into his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.
“2024. Are you ready? I am. America’s comeback begins right now.”
Trump announced that, a few minutes before beginning his speech, he had filed the necessary paperwork to initiate his third race for the White House. His term, from 2017 until 2021, was chaotic. After losing his re-election bid to Joe Biden, he left office amid scenes of violence, when his supporters – encouraged by the outgoing president – stormed the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021.
In his campaign launch, Trump repeated what he considers to be the great accomplishments of his one-term administration. He made reference to “historic tax cuts,” the “biggest economy that humanity has ever seen” and, his signature anti-immigration policy, “a secure southern border.”
Trump made his announcement less than a week after his party experienced disappointing midterm election results. The Democratic Party managed to keep control of the Senate, after several candidates hand-picked by Trump lost in Pennsylvania, Arizona, New Hampshire, Nevada and Georgia. While Republicans made modest gains in the House of Representatives, they may not even secure a 10-seat majority in the 435-seat legislative body.
Despite President Biden’s dismally low approval ratings and voter fears about rising inflation and crime, it appears as if most Americans were more concerned about Trump loyalists being elected to public office.
The former TV celebrity has had an iron grip over the Republican Party since 2016. However, he appears to be losing his magic. According to multiple public opinion surveys, most independent voters – an essential group for any candidate looking to win power – feel alienated by Trump’s continued refusal to accept the results of the 2020 presidential elections.
Prominent Republican leaders and wealthy conservative donors have even been coming out in recent days to suggest that perhaps now is the time to turn the page on the Trump era.
But don’t tell that to The Donald. Defiant as ever, he held his first campaign rally for 2024 in the same home that FBI agents raided back in August, in search of top-secret official documents that Trump illegally removed from the White House. With two years to go until the presidential vote, Trump seems confident that he will be able to crush the competition, while simultaneously extricating himself from ongoing legal entanglements. It would be far more complicated for charges to be pressed against a candidate for president – Trump would spin this as political persecution.
This is not the first time that Trump has faced widespread opposition and advice to stand down. While dozens of Republicans who once sought his approval are now turning their backs on him, the former president isn’t fazed by doubts and betrayal. He defeated the entire right-wing establishment by a landslide during the 2016 Republican primaries – a stunning political feat that, at least in conservative America, makes him feel invincible. And, despite losing in 2020, he garnered 74 million votes – the second-highest amount ever achieved in a presidential election. Trump managed this despite facing a series of sexual assault scandals and overseeing a disastrous response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In his first speech as a candidate for 2024, Trump worked quickly to dismiss the “fake news” surrounding his party’s subpar legislative election results. He claimed that, of the 232 candidates he endorsed, only 22 lost – leaving out the fact that they lost in the most crucial districts and swing states. At one point, he claimed that the reason the results weren’t better was simply because the American people “have not yet realized the full extent and gravity of the pain our nation is going through.”
The most competitive challenger that Trump could face to secure the 2024 Republican nomination is Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida. Recently re-elected by a landslide with 60% of the vote, the hard-right DeSantis was once one of Trump’s favorites, receiving his endorsement in 2018. Now, he’s an enemy, invoking the former president’s wrath on an almost-daily basis.
Earlier today, when asked by media what he thought about being referred to as “mediocre” and “Ron Desanctimonious” by Trump, the Florida governor laughed the question off. Refusing to criticize his political mentor – as they both share much of the same voter base – he pivoted, telling viewers to simply “look at the scoreboard from last Tuesday” so that they could draw a contrast between his overwhelming victories in the Florida House and Senate versus the disappointing results at the national level.
Other potential Republican challengers to Trump include former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas – who came second to Trump in the 2016 primaries – and, of course, former vice president Mike Pence, who was almost killed by the pro-Trump rioters that his old boss unleashed.
Pence – who opposes abortion and gay marriage – has a strong base among social conservatives and neoconservatives, who may be looking for a more low-key Republican as an alternative to the media-hungry Trump and DeSantis.
The same day that Trump announced his candidacy, Pence’s memoir was released in bookstores. Now on his promotional tour, he says that he is giving a 2024 run “prayerful consideration.” In any case, he told interviewers that he hoped his party would find a better presidential candidate than his former boss. But only time will tell if Republicans are really over their love affair with the man who – as goes his motto – promises to make America great again.