Donald Trump announces 2024 run for US president, jumping ahead of rivals
PALM BEACH – Mr Donald Trump made official what he has been teasing for months: He is making another White House bid in 2024, defying calls from key party leaders and donors for the GOP to move on from the former president after devastating losses in last week’s midterms.
Mr Trump filed federal paperwork to declare that he is running again ahead of a speech on Tuesday night, where hundreds of his supporters gathered in the gilded ballroom at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, becoming the first major contender from either party to formally declare.
His paperwork with the Federal Election Commission was filed 23 minutes before the scheduled start of his announcement speech, designating his campaign committee for fundraising.
Mr Trump later greeted his supporters.
In a speech broadcast live on US television, Mr Trump spoke to hundreds of supporters in a ballroom decorated with several chandeliers and lined with dozens of American flags.
“In order to make America great again, I am tonight announcing my candidacy for President of the United States,” Mr Trump said to a cheering phone-waving crowd of donors and longtime supporters. “America’s comeback starts right now.”
There is a long road ahead before the Republican nominee is formally selected in the summer of 2024, with the first state-level contests more than a year away.
Mr Trump’s announcement follows a disappointing showing in last week’s midterm congressional elections that many Republicans blame on him.
Hours before the speech, supporters began filling a ballroom decorated with several chandeliers and lined with dozens of American flags.
The unusually early launch may well be aimed at fending off potential challengers for the party’s nomination in 2024, including rising star Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, 44, and Mr Trump’s own former vice-president Mike Pence, 63.
It comes as Republicans closed in on the 218 seats they need to take a majority in the 435-seat House of Representatives.
Sources close to Mr Trump, 76, said he planned to push ahead despite mixed results from his endorsements this year, with losses by celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and Mr Don Bolduc in New Hampshire contributing to Republicans’ failure to win a majority in the US Senate.
Another Trump-picked candidate, former football star Herschel Walker, was forced into a Dec 6 run-off in his Georgia race against Democratic US Senator Raphael Warnock. That has raised some concerns that Mr Trump’s announcement could, again, hurt the party’s chances in a Georgia run-off, similar to the January 2021 run-off that gave Democrats their current majority.
Multiple Trump-aligned candidates who ran on platforms focused on his false claims of widespread election fraud were also defeated.
Conservative columnist Marc Thiessen urged him not to run again.
“That should be a wake-up call for Trump. He cannot win the presidency with his base alone,” Mr Thiessen wrote in a Washington Post column. “His conduct since losing office has made him unelectable.”
Mr Jason Miller, a Trump adviser, said the former president will urge his supporters to back Mr Walker in a speech that he described as “forward looking”.
Mr Trump decided to make his announcement now to provide some excitement for Republicans, Mr Miller said.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken before the midterm elections showed that 53 per cent of Americans and almost one in four Republicans view Mr Trump unfavourably. The poll showed a similar number of Americans viewing President Joe Biden unfavourably.
Mr Trump plans to launch his campaign nearly two years before the Nov 5, 2024, election despite these concerns, said two sources familiar with his plans.
Mr Pence released a book on Tuesday detailing Mr Trump’s unsuccessful pressure campaign to overturn his 2020 defeat.
Mr DeSantis, whom Mr Trump has given the derisive nickname “Ron DeSanctimonious”, handily won re-election last week.
On Tuesday afternoon, a plane towed a banner above Mar-a-Lago that read “You lost again Donald! #DeSantis2024”.
Mr Trump will seek his party’s nomination even as he faces trouble on several fronts, including a criminal investigation into the removal of classified documents from the White House as well as a congressional subpoena related to his role in the Jan 6, 2021, US Capitol attack by his supporters.
Mr Trump has called the various investigations he faces politically motivated and denies wrongdoing.
One of his former top executives, Mr Allen Weisselberg, testified on Tuesday as a witness for the prosecution in a tax-fraud trial targeting Mr Trump’s namesake company.
With Mr Trump now a declared candidate, Mr Biden’s attorney-general Merrick Garland may be forced to name a special counsel to pursue the various investigations into the former president launched by the Department of Justice.
The businessman-turned-politician, who has sought to maintain an iron grip on the Republican Party since leaving office, has persisted in making false claims that the 2020 election he lost to Mr Biden was stolen through widespread voting fraud.
Mr Trump is seeking to become only the second US president in history to serve non-consecutive terms, after Mr Grover Cleveland, whose second stint ended in 1897. Mr Biden, 79, has said he intends to run for re-election to a second four-year term in office, though he has yet to make a final decision.
During his turbulent 2017-2021 presidency, Mr Trump defied democratic norms and promoted “America First” nationalism while presenting himself as a right-wing populist. He became the first US president to be impeached twice, though congressional Democrats failed in their attempts to remove him from office.
At a rally that preceded the Capitol attack, Mr Trump urged supporters to “fight like hell” and march on Congress to “stop the steal”, but the mob that subsequently stormed the Capitol failed to prevent Congress from formally certifying Mr Biden’s election victory.
Four people died on the day in the violence, one shot dead by police and the other three of natural causes. A Capitol Police officer who had been attacked by protesters died the following day. Two police officers who took part in the defence of the Capitol later took their own lives. More than a hundred police officers were injured.
Even though court and state election officials rejected Mr Trump’s false election claims, about two-thirds of Republican voters believe Mr Biden’s victory was illegitimate, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling.
Despite the dismal election showing by Trump loyalists, the real-estate tycoon retains an undeniable popularity with the millions of grassroots supporters who have flocked to his “Make America Great Again” banner.
And despite being abandoned by several top Republican donors, he has amassed a campaign war chest of well over US$100 million (S$137 million). - BLOOMBERG, REUTERS, AFP