Trump announces 2024 run, despite intensifying Republican misgivings

Even though the former president’s dominance of Republican politics has led to three disappointing elections in a row for the party, he immediately claims the mantle of the party’s front-runner, thanks to a devoted, core following of millions of supporters who have repeatedly proved their loyalty to him

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By Michael C. Bender and Maggie Haberman

Published: Wed 16 Nov 2022, 10:21 PM

Last updated: Wed 16 Nov 2022, 10:22 PM

Donald Trump, whose historically divisive presidency shook the pillars of the country’s democratic institutions, on Tuesday night declared his intention to seek the White House again in 2024, ignoring the appeals of Republicans who warn that his continued influence on the party is largely to blame for its weaker-than-expected showing in the midterm elections.

His unusually early announcement was motivated in part by a calculation that a formal candidacy may help shield him from multiple investigations into his attempts to cling to power after his 2020 defeat, which led to the deadly mob attack by his supporters on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The decision, which came as votes were still being counted in congressional contests that will determine the balance of power in the House, confronts a frazzled and polarized nation — its social fabric already stressed by forces that the Trump era unleashed and supercharged — with a reboot of the non-stop political reality show that the Biden presidency had promised to cancel.

Trump’s haste to become a candidate again carries political risk and financial encumbrance, and some advisers had pushed for him to hold off. But he has been eager to announce a campaign since this summer, nearly did so at a rally last week on election eve and told some advisers that he was concerned another delay would signal weakness.

The twice-impeached former president’s view, according to friends and advisers, is that a formal White House bid will bolster his claims that the multiple state and federal investigations he faces are all politically motivated.

Indeed, he hopes that a candidacy could give pause to prosecutors who may be considering criminal charges, particularly in connection with the Justice Department’s investigation into highly sensitive documents that Trump held at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, according to the friends and advisers, who insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations.

It was at Mar-a-Lago, the scene of that possible crime, that Trump on Tuesday declared his determination to reclaim the presidency. “We will make America wealthy again,” he said as he concluded. “We will make America strong again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. We will make America glorious again. And we will make America great again.”

In his rambling hour-long address, Trump gave an exaggerated picture of his accomplishments before announcing his candidacy. He quickly fell back into his typical rally fare, full of false statements, inflammatory discussion of immigration and crime, and nods to right-wing culture-war issues.

Notably, he did not dwell on his 2020 election loss, though he called for an elimination of all early voting, absentee voting and electronic voting machines. “Only paper ballots,” he said.

And he repeatedly expressed grievance over the ongoing investigations into him and his family, denouncing the FBI search of his property to retrieve documents, among other inquiries. “I’m a victim,” Trump told the crowd bluntly.

Even though the former president’s dominance of Republican politics has led to three disappointing elections in a row for the party, he immediately claims the mantle of the party’s front-runner, thanks to a devoted, core following of millions of supporters who have repeatedly proved their loyalty to him.

One reason for his haste was to blunt the momentum gathering behind Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, whose runaway re-election victory last week astonished many inside the party. DeSantis was already the preferred presidential nominee among a sizable number of Republican donors and elected officials who have tired of Trump’s control, his continual controversies and his endless harping about 2020.

Still, Trump’s rush to announce a bid also carries the risk of backfiring. Conservative news outlets, including Fox News and others belonging to the Murdoch empire, have turned against him. The New York Post mocked him on its cover last week as “Trumpty Dumpty,” a day after lionising the much younger DeSantis as “DeFuture.” And a Wall Street Journal editorial on Monday denounced him as “the man most likely to produce a GOP loss and total power for the progressive left.”

Some advisers privately warned against an announcement, saying that “Trump fatigue” had contributed to the 2020 defeat, and that voters needed a break after the contentious 2022 election season. Over the weekend, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told several people that he had visited Trump in Florida and asked that he delay the announcement.

Trump and his team raced to do damage control and project strength leading up to Tuesday. They rounded up endorsements from Republican leaders and invited all 168 members of the Republican National Committee to the Mar-a-Lago event, although many were reluctant to attend because of party rules that require neutrality in primary contests.

No campaign team

But he has virtually no campaign team in place. No campaign manager or communications director has been chosen, and many of the arrangements for Tuesday were made by Jason Miller, a longtime adviser who now is CEO of Gettr, a social media company.

The former president is also now legally barred from working with Tony Fabrizio, his veteran pollster, and Taylor Budowich, a key adviser for much of the past year. Both men will work for Trump’s super PAC; under campaign finance laws, they cannot coordinate with an active candidate.

Trump’s new presidential campaign will begin as he confronts two Justice Department investigations: one into the sensitive documents held at Mar-a-Lago, and another into his actions and those taken by his allies and supporters to keep him in power after his 2020 defeat.

Only once in U.S. history has a president won a second term on a second try. That was in 1892 when Grover Cleveland, a New York Democrat who had been ousted from the White House four years earlier by Benjamin Harrison, an Indiana Republican, returned the favor in a rematch.

Among the nine other presidents ousted after one term, only one ever ran again: Martin Van Buren, who lost the Democratic nomination in 1844 and unsuccessfully ran four years later as the Free Soil Party’s nominee.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times

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