PALM BEACH (FLORIDA): Former US president Donald Trump said on 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 a disappointing midterm showing for Republicans and will force the party to decide whether to embrace a candidate whose refusal to accept defeat in 2020 sparked an insurrection and pushed American democracy to the brink.
"In order to make America great and glorious again, 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 bearing his Make America Great Again slogan.
"I am running because I believe the world has not yet seen the true glory of what this nation can be. We will again put America first," he added.
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 Capitol in a deadly bid to halt the peaceful transition of power on Jan. 6, 2021.
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 years 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 its time for Republicans to look to the future, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis emerging as an early favorite 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.
Hes launching his candidacy amid a series of escalating criminal investigations, including several that could lead to indictments. They include the probe into dozens of documents with classified markings that were seized by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago and ongoing state and federal inquiries into his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
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 modeled 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.
Even after GOP losses, Trump remains the most powerful force in his party. For years he has consistently topped his fellow Republican contenders by wide margins in hypothetical head-to-head matchups. And even out of office, he consistently attracts 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 weeks midterm elections viewed him very or somewhat unfavourably, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 94,000 voters nationwide. And 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.
Trumps candidacy poses profound questions about Americas democratic future. The final 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, Trumps persistent and baseless lies about widespread election fraud have eroded confidence in the nations political process. By late January 2021, about two-thirds of Republicans said they did not believe President Joe Biden was legitimately elected in 2020, an AP-NORC poll found.
VoteCast showed roughly as many Republican voters in the midterm elections continued to hold that belief.
Federal and state election officials and Trumps own attorney general have said there is no credible evidence the 2020 election was tainted. The former presidents allegations of fraud were also roundly rejected by numerous courts, including by judges Trump appointed.
But that didnt stop hundreds of midterm candidates from parroting his lies as they sought to win over his loyal base and score his coveted endorsement. In the end, many of those candidates went on to lose their races in a sign that voters rejected such extreme rhetoric....