Former President Donald Trump, aiming to become only the second commander-in-chief ever elected to two nonconsecutive terms, announced on November 15 night that he will seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. “In order to make America great and glorious again, I am tonight announcing my candidacy for president of the United States,” Trump told a crowd gathered at Mar-a-Lago, his waterfront estate in Florida, where his campaign will be headquartered. Surrounded by allies, advisers, and conservative influencers, Trump delivered a relatively subdued speech, rife with spurious and exaggerated claims about his four years in office.
Despite a historically divisive presidency and his own role in inciting an attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, President Donald Trump aimed to evoke nostalgia for his time in office, frequently contrasting his first-term accomplishments with the Biden administration’s policies and the current economic climate. Many of those perceived accomplishments, from strict immigration actions to corporate tax cuts and religious freedom initiatives, remain deeply polarizing to this day. As Trump spoke to a roomful of Republicans who expect him to face primary challengers in the coming months, he also claimed the party cannot afford to nominate “a politician or conventional candidate” if it wants to win back the White House. “This will not be my campaign, this will be our campaign all together,” Trump said.
Donald Trump’s long-awaited campaign comes as he tries to reclaim the spotlight following the Republican parties underwhelming midterm elections performance – including the losses of several Trump-endorsed election deniers – and the subsequent blame game that has unfolded since Election Day. Republicans failed to gain a Senate majority, came up short in their efforts to fill several statewide seats, and have yet to secure a House majority, with only 215 races called in their favor so far out of the 218 needed, developments that have forced Trump and other party leaders into a defensive posture as they face reproval from within their ranks.
To the delight of aides and allies who have long advised him to mount a forward-looking campaign, Donald Trump spent only a fraction of his remarks repeating his lies about the 2020 election. Though he advocated for the use of paper ballots and likened America’s election system to that of “third world countries,” Trump also tried at times to broaden his grievances, lamenting the “massive corruption” and “entrenched interests” that in his view have consumed Washington. Many of Trump’s top advisers have expressed concern that his fixation on promoting conspiracies about the last presidential election would make it harder for him to win a national election in 2024. Throughout the hour-long speech, Trump made clear that he wants his campaign to be seen by Republicans as a sacrificial undertaking. “Anyone who truly seeks to take on this rigged and corrupt system will be faced with a storm of fire that only a few could understand,” he said at one point, describing the legal and emotional toll his presidency and post-presidential period has taken on his family members.
On the heels of last week’s midterm elections, Donald Trump has been blamed for elevating flawed candidates who spent too much time parroting his claims about election fraud, alienating key voters and ultimately leading to their defeats. He attempted to counter that criticism, noting that Republicans appear poised to retake the House majority and touting at least one Trump-endorsed candidate, Kevin Kiley of California. At one point, Trump appeared to blame his party’s midterm performance on voters not yet realizing “the total effect of the suffering” after two years of Democratic control in Washington. “I have no doubt that by 2024, it will sadly be much worse and they will see clearly what has happened and is happening to our country – and the voting will be much different,” he claimed.
Donald Trump is betting that his first-out-of-the-gate strategy will fend off potential primary rivals and give him an early advantage with deep-pocketed donors, aides say. He is widely expected to be challenged by both conservative and moderate Republicans, though the calculus of some presidential hopefuls could change now that he is running. Others, like his former Vice President, Mike Pence, may proceed anyway.
Donald Trump’s third presidential bid also coincides with a period of heightened legal peril as Justice Department officials investigating him and his associates revisit the prospect of indictments in their Trump-related probes. The former President is currently being investigated for his activities before and during the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol and his retention of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate after he left office. While Trump is counting on an easy path to the GOP nomination with his sustained support among the party’s base, his announcement is likely to dash the hopes of party leaders who have longed for fresh talent. In particular, top Republicans have been paying close attention to the next moves of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who won his reelection contest with a 19-point margin of victory and considerable support from minority and independent voters. Some Republican leaders may try to scuttle Trump’s campaign by elevating or encouraging alternative candidates, including DeSantis, who has been quietly laying the groundwork for a possible White House bid of his own.
Of course, any effort to inhibit Trump’s path to the nomination is likely to prove difficult. Despite his myriad legal entanglements and the stain of January 6, the twice-impeached 45th president remains immensely popular among most Republican voters and boasts a deep connection with his core backers that could prove difficult for other GOP hopefuls to replicate or weaken. Even leading conservatives who disliked Trump’s pugnacious politics and heterodox policies stuck with him as president because he helped solidify the rightward shift of the US Supreme Court with his nominations – one of the most far-reaching aspects of his legacy, which resulted in the conservative court majority’s deeply polarizing June decision to end federal abortion rights. In fact, while Trump ended his first term with the lowest approval rating of any president, Republicans viewed him favorably, according to a May NBC News poll. That alone could give Trump a significant edge over primary opponents whom voters are still familiarizing themselves with.
Among those potential competitors is Mike Pence, who would likely benefit from high name recognition due to his role as vice president. Pence, who has been preparing for a possible White House run in 2024, is sure to face an uphill battle courting Trump’s most loyal supporters, many of whom soured on the former vice president after he declined to overstep his congressional authority and block certification of now-President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory. Trump could also find himself pitted against DeSantis, who has risen to hero status among cultural conservatives and who is widely considered a more polished version of Trump. Even some of the former president’s advisers have voiced similar observations to CNN, noting that DeSantis also made inroads with major Republican donors during his quest for reelection and built a mountain of goodwill with GOP leaders by campaigning for federal and statewide Republican candidates in the middle of his own race.
Beyond his potential rivals, Donald Trump has another roadblock in his path as the House select committee continues to investigate his role in January 6, 2021, and Justice Department officials weigh whether to issue criminal charges. The committee, which subpoenaed him for testimony and documents in October and which Trump is now battling in court, held public hearings throughout the summer and early fall featuring depositions from those in Trump’s inner circle at the White House, including members of his family, that detailed his public and private efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results through a sustained pressure campaign on numerous local, state and federal officials, and on his own vice president.
From the moment Donald Trump left Washington, defeated and disgraced, in January 2021, he began plotting a return to power, devoting the bulk of his time to building a political operation intended for this moment. With assistance from numerous former aides and advisers, he continued the aggressive fundraising tactics that had become a marker of his 2020 campaign, amassing a colossal war chest ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, and worked diligently to elect steadfast allies in both Congress and state legislatures across the country. Through it all, Trump continued to falsely insist that the 2020 election was stolen from him, indulging in far-flung conspiracy theories about voter fraud and pressuring Republican leaders across the party’s election apparatus to endorse changes that would curtail voting rights. rump’s aides were pleased earlier this fall when his public appearances and rally speeches gradually became more focused on rising crime, immigration and economic woes, key themes throughout the midterm cycle and issues they hope will enable him to draw a compelling contrast with Biden as he begins this next chapter.
Despite his campaigning, there is no guarantee that Donald Trump will glide easily to a nonconsecutive second term. Not only does history offer just one example of such a feat (defeated in 1888 after his first term, President Grover Cleveland was elected again in 1892), no previously impeached president has ever run again for office. Trump was first impeached in 2019 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice, and then again in 2021 for inciting the riot at the US Capitol. Though he was acquitted by the Senate both times, 10 House Republicans broke with their party the second time around to join Democrats in a vote to impeach him. Seven Republican senators voted to convict him at his Senate trial. Trump has also been the subject of a bevy of lawsuits and investigations, including a New York state investigation and a separate Manhattan district attorney criminal probe into his company’s finances, a Georgia county probe into his efforts to overturn Biden’s election win in the state, and separate Justice Department probes into his campaign’s scheme to put forth fake electors in battleground states and his decision to bring classified materials with him to Mar-a-Lago upon leaving office.