On Tuesday evening, the former president announced his third consecutive campaign for the presidency. “America’s comeback starts right now,” Trump told a MAGA-friendly crowd assembled at his Mar-a-Lago compound.
With a backdrop of American flags, Trump said “everybody was thriving like never before” during his presidency, and that all President Joe Biden had to do was “sit back and watch.”
But now, Trump claimed, “we are a nation in decline.” He mentioned gas prices, inflation, the economy, the southern border, and “the blood-soaked streets of our cities.”
“We are here tonight to declare that it does not have to be this way,” Trump said.
“In order to make America great and glorious again, I am tonight announcing my candidacy for President of the United States,” he said to the crowd’s delight.
His speech was full of his usual lies, self-congratulations, and bombast. He falsely alluded to fraud in the 2020 election (“China played a very active role in the 2020 election"), claimed Russia would have never invaded Ukraine if he were president, said “millions and millions” of immigrants were making “an invasion into our country,” touted his record on “the China virus,” and bizarrely claimed that climate change would only increase sea levels by one-eighth of an inch over the next 200 to 300 years.
But despite playing the hits, it was a decidedly low-energy, recycled speech. The announcement was so lacking in news value that Fox News cut away during the speech to get live feedback from Trump loyalists.
On top of his speech, Trump also officially filed his paperwork with the Federal Election Commission Tuesday. But all is not well in Trumpworld.
After last week’s disappointing midterm election results for Republicans—particularly for the Republicans Trump endorsed—there’s a new sense in the GOP that Republicans ought to turn the page. Voters preferred Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to Trump as the GOP nominee in a recent YouGov poll conducted last week. GOP pundits have been slamming Trump since last week, after voters widely rejected his brand of politics at the ballot box. And Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch has told confidants he has no plans to back Trump, according to the U.K. tabloid i.
Still, Trump is betting that by getting out ahead of the rest of the GOP candidates, he can clear the field and coalesce support around his candidacy. But this time around, it might not be so simple.
For months, Trump has repeatedly inquired how his poll numbers compare to those of prominent Republicans, such as Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, South Dakota’s Governor Kristi Noem, and former Vice President Mike Pence. But Trump has particularly become fixated on DeSantis. As The Daily Beast reported last week, tensions between the camps are quietly simmering over, even as his advisers believe DeSantis won’t be a real threat to the former president.
“Trump’s going to end up doing to DeSantis and his wife what he did to Cruz and his wife,” a Trump adviser said, referencing how Trump went after Sen. Ted Cruz in 2016.
Over the past month, Trump has turned to publicly mocking the Florida Governor as "Ron DeSanctimonious."
Trump’s early announcement would appear to put to DeSantis a question: Will he challenge Trump? And in that sense, Trump getting out ahead of the rest of the field would make some sense.
As is usually the case with Trump, however, the announcement could also just be another representation of Trump’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along style of politics.
Last week, Trump considered making his 2024 declaration at a rally in Vandalia, Ohio, ahead of the midterms, which left many in Trump’s orbit scrambling to convince him otherwise. One adviser told The Daily Beast that the announcement (or lack thereof) was a game-time decision, comparing it to a “coin toss.”
And this past summer, advisers wondered if a July 4th announcement might occur in the spur of the moment. Trump is still declaring his 2024 candidacy before the midterm elections; the Georgia Senate election has gone to a runoff, and despite some advisers telling Trump he should wait until that race is over, Trump moved forward.
Trump seems to believe his candidacy could provide some protection from a potential criminal indictment over a number of alleged crimes, most notably his mishandling of classified materials. But former prosecutors say that thinking is flawed.
Now that he’s announced, Trump is counting on Republicans coming back to him. The question is whether independents—particularly a critical mass of independents—will find a way to support Trump. But the first step is getting some of Trump’s biggest cheerleaders back, as some major MAGA supporters have been showing some reservations lately.
“Yeah, I’m out,” pro-Trump and Dilbert cartoon creator Scott Adams wrote Saturday after Trump additionally attacked Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Likewise, Ann Coulter ripped into Trump recently and told him to “shut the fuck up, forever.”
It remains to be seen whether Trump Republicans would actually prefer to move on. After taking so many shots from Trump, the former president’s chief rival offered perhaps his sternest rebuke Tuesday.
Discussing his detractors, DeSantis said he would tell people “to go check out the scoreboard from last Tuesday night,” alluding to election night results that weren’t favorable to Trump-backed candidates.