Trump announces a third bid for the White House

PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Former Pres Donald Trump said Tuesday that he will mount a third White House campaign, kicking off an early start to the contest in 2024. The announcement comes just a week after a disappointing midterm results for Republicans and will force the party to decide whether to accept a candidate whose refusal to accept defeat in 2020 has sparked an uprising and pushed American democracy to the brink.

“To make America great and glorious again, tonight I’m announcing my candidacy for president of the United States,” Trump told an audience of several hundred supporters, club members and press gathered in a chandeliered ballroom at his Mar-a-Lago club , where he stood surrounded by more than 30 American flags and banners bearing his slogan, “Make America Great Again.” “I’m running because I believe the world has yet to see the true glory of what this nation can be.”

“We will put America first again,” he added.

Another campaign is a remarkable turnaround for any former president, much less one who made history as the first to be impeached twice and whose tenure ended with his supporters storming the Capitol in a deadly attempt to stop a peaceful transition of power on January 6, 2021

Trump enters the race at a time of political vulnerability. He had hoped to launch his campaign on the back of landslide GOP victories in the midterms, fueled by candidates he promoted during this year’s primaries. Instead, many of those candidates lost, allowing Democrats to retain the Senate and leaving the GOP a path to a bare majority in the House.

Far from the party’s undisputed leader, Trump now faces 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 front-runner for the White House.

The former president is still popular among the base of the Republican Party. But other Republicans, including former Vice President Mike Pence, are taking increasingly public steps toward their own campaigns, raising the prospect that Trump will have to navigate a competitive GOP primary.

He launched his candidacy amid a series of escalating criminal investigations, including several that could lead to charges. They included the probe in dozens of documents with secret markings that were seized by the FBI of Mar-a-Lago and the ongoing state and federal investigations into his efforts to cancel the results in the 2020 presidential election.

But Trump, according to people close to him, is eager to return to politics and try to stop the rise of other potential rivals. Aides have spent recent months preparing documents, identifying potential staff and sketching the contours of a campaign modeled after his 2016 operation, when a small group of aides shuttling between rallies on his private jet defied the odds and defeated much better… funded and more experienced rivals by tapping into deep political rifts and using shock statements to attract relentless media attention.

Even after the GOP losses, Trump remains the most powerful force in his party. For years, he has consistently outspent his fellow Republicans by wide margins in hypothetical head-to-head matchups. And even out of office, he consistently draws thousands to his rallies and remains his party’s most prolific fundraiser, raising hundreds of millions of dollars.

Read more: How Donald Trump’s control of the Republican Party turned into a hostage situation

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. An AP-NORC poll from October found that even Republicans have their reservations about him remaining the party’s standard-bearer, with 43 percent saying they don’t want to see him run for president in 2024.

Trump’s candidacy raises profound questions about America’s democratic future. The final days of his presidency were consumed by a desperate effort to hang on to power, undermining the centuries-old tradition of a peaceful transfer. In both years since he lost, Trump’s persistent — and baseless — lies about widespread election fraud have eroded confidence in the nation’s political process. By the end of January 2021, about two-thirds of Republicans said they did not believe President Joe Biden was legitimately elected in 2020, an AP-NORC poll found.

VoteCast showed that roughly as many Republican voters in the midterm elections continued to hold that belief.

Federal and state election officials and Trump’s attorney general have said there is no credible evidence that the 2020 election was rigged. The former president’s claims of fraud have also been roundly rejected by multiple courts, including Trump-appointed judges.

But that hasn’t stopped hundreds of midterm candidates from repeating his lies as they try to win over his loyal base and win his coveted endorsement. Ultimately, many of these candidates lost their races in a sign that voters rejected such extreme rhetoric.

While some Republicans with presidential ambitions, such as former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, have long ruled out running against Trump, others said he would not consider their decisions, even before his midterm losses.

They include Pence, who released a book on 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 Senator Tim Scott and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin. Trump is also likely to face challenges from members of the anti-Trump wing of the party such as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, vice chair of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6

But the person who has preoccupied Trump and his allies the most in recent months is DeSantis, whose impressive re-election as governor last week has been a bright spot for Republicans this cycle. The former congressman, who became a popular national figure among conservatives during the pandemic as he rejected restrictions against COVID-19, shares Trump’s combative instincts and has embraced battles on 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.

Trump has already begun publicly attacking DeSantis. On Tuesday, Florida’s governor fired back.

“At the end of the day, I would just tell people to go check the scoreboard from last Tuesday night,” DeSantis told reporters.

A crowded field of GOP challengers could end up playing in Trump’s favor, as it did in 2016, when he prevailed over more than a dozen other candidates who split the vote against Trump.

Trump’s decision paves the way for a potential rematch with Biden, who has said he intends to run for re-election despite concerns from some in his party about his age and low approval ratings. The two men were already the oldest presidential candidates 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 to be 86.

If ultimately successful, Trump would be only the second US president in history to serve two non-consecutive terms, following Grover Cleveland’s victories in 1884 and 1892.

But Trump enters the race facing enormous challenges beyond his party’s growing anxieties. The former president has been the subject of numerous investigations, including the months-long probe into hundreds of classified documents found in boxes at Mar-a-Lago.

Trump, meanwhile, is facing scrutiny from the Justice Department over attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fannie Willis is investigating what she claims is a “coordinated multi-state plan by the Trump campaign ‘ to influence 2020 results.

And in New York, Attorney General Letitia James is suing Trump, alleging that his namesake company engaged in fraudulent accounting for decades, misleading banks about the value of his assets. The Trump Organization is also on trial, facing criminal tax fraud charges.

Some in Trump’s orbit believe the flight will help protect him from possible indictment, but there is no legal statute that would prevent the Justice Department from moving forward — or prevent Trump from continuing to run if he is indicted.

It was no secret what he had planned.

At the White House Christmas party in December 2020, Trump told guests it had been an “amazing four years.”

“We’re trying to do another four years,” he said. “Otherwise, we’ll see each other in four years.”

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