Welcome to Campaign 2024
Former President Donald Trump’s announcement draws mixed reviews
Applause shook the ballroom at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., on Tuesday night as former President Donald Trump became a presidential candidate yet again.
“This is not my campaign, but our campaign,” he declared. “The only force strong enough to defeat the massive corruption is you, the American people … and as I promised in 2016, I am your voice.”
The announcement kickstarts the presidential election race of 2024 exactly one week after the midterm elections, some of which have yet to be decided. The news has Republicans divided and Democrats adamant that a second Trump term would be disastrous. Most presidential candidacies aren’t announced until the year before the election. Biden has indicated he will seek a second term but said he will not officially announce one way or another until 2023.
The early announcement has some drawbacks. Some of Trump’s supporters wish he had waited to announce his candidacy until after the Georgia runoff election for U.S. Senate, in which GOP nominee Herschel Walker is in a statistical tie with incumbent Raphael Warnock. Also, Tuesday’s speech triggered campaign finance laws that now limit individual donations, how much money Trump can pull from his Save America political action committee, and financing from the Republican National Committee, which is required to be neutral until the convention chooses a nominee. This means the RNC must also stop payments toward Trump’s many legal bills.
Unlike 2016, Trump’s campaign promises were vaguer this time. He attacked Biden for persistent inflation and economic strains, claiming that “the people coming in just had to sit back and watch what we did.” Trump called the country a cesspool of violence with blood-soaked streets and a laughingstock of the world since he left office.
“I’m running because I believe the world has not yet seen the true glory of what this nation can be,” he told the crowd. “We can go very far, and we have to get out of this ditch. We are Americans, and we do not have to endure what is taking place in Washington, D.C. These are our corridors.”
Tuesday’s speech repeated many of the talking points Trump has used since leaving office—calling record high border crossings an invasion of illegals, insisting that Russia never would have invaded Ukraine if he were president, and repeating claims that rampant fraud infects elections, including his own 2020 bid. But the delivery was far different from his usual style. He largely stayed on script during the roughly 90-minute speech. He dug at some Biden faux-pas such as falling asleep during a meeting or misspeaking at events, but he kept away from name-calling.
Jeanne Seaver, a 22-year Savannah, Ga., resident, worked as a grassroots activist during Trump’s 2016 campaign. She has started several conservative, Republican groups and ran for lieutenant governor in 2021 but lost in the primary. She watched a Newsmax feed of the announcement on Tuesday night and is ready to pound the pavement again if she can.
“Donald J. Trump does have the record of doing everything that he said he was going to do,” Seaver told me. “There’s no doubt in my mind that this man loves America—the sacrifices he’s making with the political atmosphere that it is right now. He’s going to move forward and continue to try to save our country. I have the utmost respect for him.”
According to a Pew Research study conducted last month, the majority of likely Republicans feel positively toward Trump and want him to stay in politics, but the percentage has been declining since 2016. The Club for Growth, an organization formerly allied with Trump, released polling last week showing that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is more popular than Trump by wide margins in Florida, Georgia, Iowa, and New Hampshire.
“Republicans need to be united behind a strong candidate and a platform that shows voters real solutions to beat Biden and the Democrats in 2024,” club President David McIntosh said in a statement. “Our polling shows that Republican primary voters recognize Trump’s insults against Republicans as hollow and counterproductive, and it’s taking a significant toll on his support.”
In the days leading up to the Mar-a-Lago announcement, Trump took aim at DeSantis, calling him “Ron DeSanctimonious.” He also criticized Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, another prominent Republican who held the former president at arm’s length during his campaign. In a Truth Social post, Trump took credit for Youngkin’s 2021 win and said his last name sounded suspiciously Chinese. Youngkin responded that he is focused on unifying and leading people. DeSantis told a media pool last week, “just look at the scoreboard,” pointing to his 59.4 percent win in the now–safely Republican state.
Still, analysts at FiveThirtyEight think Trump could easily clinch the Republican nomination.
“When Trump announced his first presidential bid in 2015, we hadn’t seen a candidate quite like him, and his candidacy was difficult to handicap,” Nathaniel Rakich wrote. “Seven years later, Trump is still a unique political figure. A former president hasn’t sought a nonconsecutive second term or faced criminal investigation in generations, and Trump is doing both. This time, he starts the campaign as the front-runner, not the underdog. Still, the lesson is the same—don’t be overconfident in your predictions. With Donald Trump, anything can happen.”
“I mean, do I like DeSantis? Absolutely. But I’m a loyal person. And Donald Trump is very loyal to those that are loyal to him,” Seaver said. “I’m very disappointed in Mike Pence. If it wasn’t for Donald Trump, he would never have been anything other than a governor in Indiana. I was just highly offended that he’s turned his back on Trump. Loyalty is everything.”
Most establishment Republicans have remained quiet about Trump’s speech. A few of his closest allies on Capitol Hill took to Twitter to support him, including Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, and Andy Biggs of Arizona. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham posted, “If President Trump continues this tone and delivers this message on a consistent basis, he will be hard to beat. His speech tonight, contrasting his policies and results against the Biden administration, charts a winning path for him in the primaries and general election.”
Trump has not indicated who his running mate might be, but experts are closely watching Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who has yet to give a concession speech despite the race being called for Democrat Katie Hobbs.
Biden, who was in Bali for a meeting with global leaders on Tuesday, responded to media requests for comment on Trump’s announcement with, “No, not really.” Later on Tuesday night, he posted a video of collated news headlines of Trump’s actions as president with the message “Donald Trump failed America” and a ticking clock.
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