PALM BEACH, Fla. – Former President Trump, facing questions about his influence over the Republican Party, on Tuesday announced his entry into the 2024 race for the White House.
Trump made the announcement during a much-anticipated event at Mar-a-Lago, his private estate and club in Palm Beach, Fla., just a week after a lackluster midterm election performance denied Republicans the “red wave” they had long anticipated and led to days of finger-pointing within the party.
Flanked by a dozen American flags in a gilded ballroom, Trump delivered a winding speech in which he boasted about — and often exaggerated — his record in the Oval Office and defended his party’s midterm performance, claiming that Republicans had “taken over Congress” and “fired” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Of other Republican midterm failures, Trump claimed that Americans had “not yet realized the full extent and gravity of the pain our nation is going through.”
“We always have known that this was not the end. It was only the beginning of our fight to rescue the American dream,” Trump said. “In order to make America great and glorious again, I am tonight announcing my candidacy for president of the United States.”
The former president on Tuesday made good on months of hinting that he could mount a comeback bid after losing reelection to President Biden in 2020. Since then, Trump has continued to cling to his false claim that widespread voter fraud and systemic irregularities robbed him of a second term in the White House — allegations some in the party say cost them crucial midterm races.
Even in announcing his latest campaign on Tuesday, Trump suggested that China may have played “a very active role in the 2020 election.” He also insisted that only paper ballots should be used in elections and called for early voting to be abolished, undermining recent calls from some Republicans for the party to focus more on early and mail-in voting.
Tuesday marks the beginning of Trump’s fourth presidential campaign, though only the third in which he is running as a serious political figure. But he is entering the 2024 race in a very different position than he was in when he launched his first successful bid for the Oval Office in 2015.
He is no longer just the businessman and reality TV star who won over Republican voters with his bombastic and controversial promises to “build the wall” at the U.S. southern border and “drain the swamp” in Washington.
To many Americans, Trump is a political pariah who sought to cast aside the peaceful transfer of power between presidential administrations in order to preserve his reputation as a winner in all facets of life.
Trump’s efforts to turn over his 2020 electoral loss have put him at the center of a congressional investigation and isolated him from the biggest social media platforms, including Twitter, the site that once helped him build up his political profile.
He has also found himself at the center of a complex web of legal threats, ranging from investigations into his business to probes into his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. In August, FBI agents raided his Mar-a-Lago estate in South Florida as part of an inquiry into classified documents being kept there, an unprecedented move, though one Trump sought to cast as politically motivated.
He’s also heading into his campaign in a weakened state. Republicans had long anticipated a so-called red wave in 2022, believing that resentment of Biden and his party’s control of Congress would sweep them into the majority.
Instead, the elections yielded a significantly cloudier picture of the country. While Republicans are poised to capture a narrow majority in the House, they missed out on an opportunity to take control of the Senate — a failure that many Republicans blame on Trump and his repeated intervention in GOP primaries.
In fact, some advisers reportedly urged Trump to delay his announcement until more time had passed after the midterms.
But to other Americans, he remains a visionary who sought to bulldoze an opaque federal bureaucracy and advocate for the United States’ best interests in an increasingly globalized and interconnected world.
And indeed, there are no signs that Trump may seek to turn over a new leaf in his 2024 presidential bid. His announcement on Tuesday echoed the themes that have defined his political career. He described America as being in a weakened state under Biden, railing against what he dubbed out-of-control inflation and immigration, and claiming that China had once again begun taking advantage of the U.S.
He said that his presidency had brought about a “golden age” in the U.S. Now, he said, America is “a nation in decline.”
“Under our leadership, we were a great and glorious nation — something you haven’t heard for quite a long period of time,” he said. “Now we are a nation in decline. We are a failing nation. For millions of Americans, the past two years under Joe Biden have been a time of pain, hardship and despair.”
At times, however, Trump’s speech was more subdued than his normal fiery tirades. He didn’t speak at length about his false claim that the 2020 election was rigged against him and he sought to project a sense of calm in the face of his party’s lackluster midterm election performance.
He spoke for more than an hour to a crowd of supporters, including staunch political allies like Mike Lindell, the ultra-conservative businessman known for selling pillows. Still, at times, his audience appeared unenthusiastic. Trump drew applause and chants throughout his speech, but the response was often subdued compared to the raucous atmosphere of his larger rallies.
While not entirely unexpected, his entrance into the 2024 presidential race comes at an unusual time.
While the midterm elections have passed, there are still three weeks until a runoff Senate election in Georgia, and some Republicans fear the effect a Trump presidential run will have on their campaign in the state.
And while Trump remains by and large the most popular figure in the modern GOP, there are questions about whether he is the best standard-bearer for the political movement he started seven years ago.
He remains unpopular among most voters. Exit polling from the 2022 midterm elections found that Trump is less popular than Biden, who’s favorability rating has sunk deep underwater. A Politico-Morning Consult poll released on Tuesday found that 65 percent of voters do not believe that Trump should mount another bid for the White House.
Most early polling shows him as the front-runner for the 2024 GOP presidential nod. But there are signs that other prospective candidates may be catching up, most notably Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. A growing number of Republicans see DeSantis, a longtime Trump ally, as a top-tier pick for the White House.
While DeSantis has downplayed the notion that he has presidential ambitions, he hasn’t ruled out a 2024 bid. Strengthening his argument for a presidential run was the fact that he notched a 19-point landslide victory in the midterms that sent him to a second term with a governing mandate.
His swelling profile among Republicans nationally may be one of the reasons that Trump decided to jump into the race so early, according to multiple party operatives and strategists.
“The president wants to get ahead of the curve,” one GOP donor, who requested anonymity to speak openly about the dynamics of the budding 2024 race, said. “I think he knows that every day, he’s losing a little bit more relevance. The idea is: Put yourself out there before someone else comes along.”
Updated at 10:26 p.m.