Trump launches bid for 2024 polls amid GOP losses, legal challenges

Nov 16, 2022 09:07 PM IST

But there is a wider concern in the party that even Trump potentially wins the primary, he is the least viable candidate to win a national election given how he alienates moderates and independent voters

Washington: Former US president Donald Trump on Tuesday announced his candidature for the 2024 presidential election, becoming only the second person in American history to have served as president, lost an election and then returned to the electoral battlefield for a re-run.

Former US President Donald Trump announces that he will once again run for president in the 2024 election during an event at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. (REUTERS)
Former US President Donald Trump announces that he will once again run for president in the 2024 election during an event at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. (REUTERS)

Addressing supporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort and residence in Florida, Trump, 76, cited the achievements of his presidency; slammed the Joe Biden administration; claimed the world viewed America with derision and scorn; appeared to blame China for the 2020 elections; and promised that he would lead an American comeback.

“In order to make America great and glorious again, I am tonight announcing my candidacy for the president of the United States,” Trump said. The only other defeated president who ran for the presidency for a second time (and won) was Grover Cleveland in 1893.

Trump’s announcement comes even as he faces unprecedented criticism for within Republican ranks, for his role in dragging down the party during the midterm elections, and confronts a set of legal challenges, some of which could potentially lead to a criminal indictment. While he remains the most popular leader for the Republican base, Trump is expected to face a tough challenge to win the Republican primary against Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who hasn’t announced his candidacy, but is already being billed as a key contender for the nomination.

Trump began his speech by saying that there had never been anything like his movement, and there will be nothing like it.

“America’s comeback starts right now. Two years ago, when I left office, the US stood ready for its golden age. Our nation was at the pinnacle of power, prosperity and prestige, towering above all rivals and vanquishing all enemies.” In the four years of his term, he claimed that all citizens — men, women, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans — were thriving.

“We turned the page on decades of globalist sell-out and one sided trade deals, lifted millions out of poverty and built the greatest economy,” he said.

Trump also claimed credit for the management of the pandemic, economic recovery, low prices, low crime, a strong southern border, and attaining the “impossible dream of energy independence”.

This is when he turned to China.

“For the first time in memory, China was reeling and back on its heels. You had never seen that before because the US was outdoing them on every single front and China was paying billions and billions of dollars in taxes and tariffs.”

Trump said that no president had ever sought or received one dollar for the country from China “until I came along”.

“Many people think that because of this, China played a very active role in the 2020 election. Just saying, just saying. Sure that did not happen. Instead of jobs and factories leaving America for China, they were for the first time ever leaving China for America.”

He added that China, Russia, North Korea and Iran were in check because they respected him, and that he was the first president not to ever started ever a war in decades.

The former president said that the US is now a “failing nation, declining nation”.

He blamed Biden for inflation, high gas prices, “surrender” of energy independence, illegal immigration, crime, drugs, and the American exit from Afghanistan, which he said was “perhaps the most embarrassing moment in American history”. He also claimed that the war in Ukraine would never have happened under his watch.

“Many foreign nations find us detestable. Our southern border has been erased and our country is being invaded by millions and millions of people..The United States has been embarrassed, weakened and humiliated for all to see..Our enemies are speaking of us with scorn and derision.”

Trump will have to first win the Republican nomination for presidency. A Politico/Morning Consult poll after the midterm results showed that Trump still remains the favourite, with 47% of Republican voters saying they will back him. But this is a dip from a pre-midterm poll which showed his support at 48%. More significantly, the poll showed support for DeSantis increasing from 26% before the midterms to 33% this week.

But there is a wider concern in the party that even Trump potentially wins the primary, he is the least viable candidate to win a national election given how he alienates moderates and independent voters.

At a conference of Republican governors on Tuesday, there was an increasing chorus of voices seeking an alternative to Trump and blaming him for the poor performance in the midterms. Reports suggest that Republican donors are increasingly looking at DeSantis as the most viable candidate for 2024.

The entire Rupert Murdoch-controlled media empire, including Wall Street Journal, Fox News and New York Post, have slammed Trump and shifted focus to DeSantis. There has been frequent commentary on how Trump has now led to Republican defeats in four elections - the 2018 midterms, the 2020 presidential polls, the 2021 Georgia race for Senate, and now the 2022 midterms. On Tuesday, the Journal’s editorial board said, “Two years out of office, Mr Trump remains more unpopular than Mr Biden. He divides Republicans, while he is the most effective motivator of Democratic voter turnout in history…Republican voters will have to decide if they want to nominate a man most likely to produce a GOP loss and total power for the progressive left.”

Trump also continues to face a raft of legal challenges, ranging from his business dealings to his role after the 2020 elections to mishandling classified documents by taking them to Mar-a-Lago and not returning them to the National Archives. Observers believe that the legal challenges could be one of the reasons why Trump has announced his candidacy so early in the cycle, for he can now will now frame the cases as political vendetta and rally his base around it.

Underestimating Trump would be a mistake, for he has shown a remarkable ability to bounce back from political controversies and setbacks. The release of Access Hollywood tapes in 2016 displayed his misogyny, sexism and abusive attitude; the allegations of Russian involvement in the 2016 elections led to years of a special investigation; Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky making American support contingent on Zelensky launching investigations into business dealings of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, led to the House of Representatives impeaching Trump.

The former president had also denied the legitimacy of the results of the 2020 elections He put pressure on state governors and secretaries of state to challenge outcomes which favoured Democrats, mounted legal challenges against the verdict, instructed his vice-president Mike Pence not to certify the results, rallied his supporters to March to the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and waited for hours even as the mob engaged in an assault on the Capitol before urging them to return home. The insurrection on the Capitol led to House impeaching Trump for a second time (in both impeachment-related development, the Senate acquitted him).

Yet, Trump still retained both substantial support among the Republican base, with even elements of the Republican leadership willing to go along with his narrative on the 2020 polls. Whether the losses in the midterms — Trump-backed candidates for senators, governors and secretaries of state have lost in large numbers — will finally alter the political mood in the party will determine Trump’s prospects.

Get Latest World Newsalong with Latest Newsfrom Indiaat Hindustan Times.

    Prashant Jha is the Washington DC-based US correspondent of Hindustan Times. He is also the editor of HT Premium. Jha has earlier served as editor-views and national political editor/bureau chief of the paper. He is the author of How the BJP Wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine and Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal.

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