Trump announcement of US presidential run falls flat
As he promised last week, Donald Trump announced on Tuesday his intention to again run for president in the 2024 election, defying many people's expectations that the former president might have a change of heart following the lacklustre results of the 2022 midterms. The election results and his badly received speech have given hope to many, including some in his own party, that his star is fading.
At his beach resort Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, to the country song God Bless the USA, in what might be the earlier presidential candidacy announcement in US history, Trump told a crowd of his supporters, "In order to make America great and glorious again, I am announcing my candidacy for president of the United States."
He went on to say that he wanted to execute drug dealers, pointing to China as an inspiration. He said other former presidents' homes should have been raided as he was by the Federal Bureau of Investigation over classified documents he'd taken with him from the White House.
"And I'm a victim. I will tell you. I'm a victim. Think of it," Trump said.
The most enthusiasm from the audience came when, in a reference to excluding trans athletes from sports, he said there would be no men in women's sports. He blamed the Green New Deal, which isn't law, for major problems in the country and vowed to terminate the non-existent law.
The announcement was done after 9 pm local time, thereby missing prime-time coverage. Though it was reported as breaking news by major networks at the time, most of the following day's news coverage of the event focused on its banality. Video footage showed people trying to leave during the speech, but security guards kept them in the room, raising speculation that Trump needed ploys to give the appearance of an enthusiastic crowd.
"It was an interesting backdrop. It was off the heels of the loss in Arizona. You could tell the energy he had in 2016 may or may not have been there," J. Miles Coleman, associate editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told The New Arab.
In the days leading up to his announcement, Trump was advised publicly by members of the Republican Party, and perhaps also privately, that he should not announce his candidacy.
"One thing we can't underestimate is the power of his ego," Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, told TNA. "In deciding what to do, maybe his advisors cautioned him. But if it's something to boost his ego, he'll do it."
It shouldn't be surprising that Trump defied the Republican establishment in announcing his presidential run at seemingly an inopportune time. His 2016 presidential run broke basic norms, leading many to treat it as a joke until he became president.
But there are already signs that this time might be different. Last time, his status as an outsider made him appealing to many voters. This time, he has a record to run on, which includes the world's highest death count for the covid pandemic; an insurrection that led to the arrests of many of his followers; a midterm where his most prominent endorsees lost their races; and now his role in a questionable online fundraising scheme that purports to raise money for Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker, but 90 per cent of the donations go to Trump.
"I don't think this announcement will be helpful to Walker," said Coleman. "In Georgia, especially in the suburbs of Atlanta, a lot of voters used to be Republican. Walker has very much run on his connection with Trump."
However, one politician who has been helped by Trump's endorsement has been Florida governor Ron DeSantis. Trump endorsed him in 2018 when he narrowly won his race for governor, in a race that Trump is now saying he helped him in by stopping votes from being counted. In this latest election, DeSantis won by around 20 points, overperforming the polls and bringing him further into the spotlight as a Republican 2024 presidential hopeful.
Now that DeSantis appears to no longer need Trump's support, he, like other prominent Republicans, appears to be distancing himself from the former president. He and others also appear to be gaining confidence about entertaining the idea of running for president, which Tuesday's speech might have inadvertently encouraged.
"We're going to see what kind of impact there is. I don't think it will scare anyone off," said Smith.
"My guess is we'll see the slow erosion of support for Trump," he said. "Parties don't exist for candidates. They exist for voters and to win. I think that will be sinking in more and more."
Still, what appears to be Trump's political demise is not sufficient to comfort those who want more solid confirmation that he will not return to power.
With several state and federal investigations underway of the former president and with indictments expected in the coming months, there is speculation that Trump is running for office to try to avoid prosecution.
Moreover, Trump's unprecedented and largely unexpected rise to the Republican nomination and then to the presidency cannot be forgotten and therefore cannot be discounted that it could happen again. But he might have stronger competition within his own party next time.
"Trump could be a formidable candidate on the Republican side," said Coleman. "But I suspect he won't have the field to himself. DeSantis, in large part, got elected because of Trump's endorsement. It would be ironic if he supplanted Trump."