Trump seeks White House again amid GOP losses

PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Former President Donald Trump said 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 an underwhelming midterm showing for Republicans.

“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 that read, “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

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 year’s 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 it’s 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.

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.

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 week’s midterm elections viewed him very or somewhat unfavorably, 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% saying they don’t want to see him run for President in 2024.

While some Republicans with presidential ambitions, like former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, have long ruled out running against Trump, others have said he would not figure into their decisions, even before his midterm losses.

They include Pence, who released a book Tuesday, and Trump’s former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, as well as former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who ran against Trump in 2016. Other potential candidates include Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Trump is also likely to face challenges from members of the anti-Trump wing of the party like Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, vice chair of the House committee that has been investigating Jan. 6.

But the person who has most occupied Trump and his allies in recent months is DeSantis, whose commanding reelection as governor last week was a bright spot for Republicans this cycle. The former congressman, who became a popular national figure among conservatives during the pandemic as he pushed back on COVID-19 restrictions, shares Trump’s instincts and has embraced fights over social issues with similar zeal.

Even some enthusiastic Trump supporters say they are eager for DeSantis to run, seeing him as a natural successor to Trump but without the former President’s considerable baggage.

A crowded field of GOP rivals could ultimately play to Trump’s advantage, as it did in 2016, when he prevailed over more than a dozen other candidates who splintered the anti-Trump vote.

Trump’s decision paves the way for a potential rematch with Biden, who has said he intends to run for reelection despite concerns from some in his party over his age and low approval ratings. The two men were already the oldest presidential nominees ever when they ran in 2020. Trump, who is 76, would be 82 at the end of a second term in 2029. Biden, who is about to turn 80, would be 86.

If he is ultimately successful, Trump would be just the second U.S. president in history to serve two nonconsecutive terms, following Grover Cleveland’s wins in 1884 and 1892.

 

Categories: Politics & Elections