Donald Trump has announced he will run for the United States presidency again in 2024 despite facing multiple criminal investigations and the poor performance of the candidates he backed in last week’s midterm elections.
Trump launched the bid — his third for the presidency — on Tuesday evening at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, a week after elections in which Republicans failed to win as many seats in Congress as they had hoped.
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In a speech broadcast live on US television, 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,” the 76-year-old told the cheering crowd of donors and longtime supporters.
“I am running because I believe the world has not yet seen the true glory of what this nation can be,” he said.
“We will again put America first,” he added.
Earlier in the day, aides filed paperwork with the US Federal Election Commission setting up a committee called “Donald J Trump for President 2024”.
There is a long road ahead before the Republican presidential nominee is formally selected in the US summer of 2024, with the first state-level contests more than a year away. Analysts believe Trump’s 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 Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, 63.
“He’s getting ahead of other Republicans,” said Adolfo Franco, a Republican Party strategist. “Being Donald Trump, he would frame any other candidate who were to launch a presidential bid henceforth as disloyal to him as being the former president and in a sense the titular head of the party.”
But Trump, who was twice impeached during his last term as president, enters the race at a moment of political vulnerability.
He had hoped to launch his campaign in the wake of resounding Republican midterm victories, fuelled by candidates he elevated during this year’s primaries. Instead, many of those candidates lost, allowing Democrats to keep the Senate and leaving the Republicans with a path to only a bare majority in the House of Representatives.
The losses have prompted some prominent Republicans to openly blame Trump for promoting weak candidates who they say derailed the party’s hopes of taking control of Congress.
Still, Trump remains a “formidable force”, Franco told Al Jazeera.
“The Republican Party, frankly, is just loyal to him. And I think losing that base would hurt us in 2024. In many ways, today is Donald Trump’s low point. It’s only up from here for Donald Trump.”
Trump’s bid to seek his party’s nomination also comes amid a series of escalating criminal investigations, including several that could lead to indictments.
They include the probe into dozens of documents with classified markings that were seized by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago, and ongoing state and federal inquiries into his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
He is also facing a congressional subpoena related to his role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.
Trump, a property tycoon and former reality TV star, has called the various investigations he faces politically motivated and has denied wrongdoing.
The former president’s stint at the White House — between 2017 and 2021 — was one of the most tumultuous in modern US history. As well as the unprecedented impeachments, he deployed harsh rhetoric that critics say often veered into explicit bigotry and deeply polarised the country.
Despite his popularity among Republicans, 54 percent of voters in last week’s midterm elections viewed him very or somewhat unfavourably, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 94,000 voters nationwide.
Trump’s candidacy also poses profound questions about the US’s democratic future. The final days of his presidency were consumed by a desperate effort to stay in power, undermining the centuries-old tradition of a peaceful transfer. And in the two years since he lost, Trump’s persistent — and baseless — lies about widespread election fraud have eroded confidence in the nation’s political process.
By late January 2021, about two-thirds of Republicans said they did not believe Biden was legitimately elected in 2020, an AP-NORC poll found. VoteCast showed roughly as many Republican voters in the midterm elections continued to hold that belief.
Federal and state election officials, along with Trump’s attorney general, have said there is no credible evidence the 2020 election was tainted. The former president’s allegations of fraud were also roundly rejected by numerous courts, including by judges appointed by Trump.
Trump’s presidential bid 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 over his age and low approval ratings.
The two men were already the oldest presidential nominees ever when they fought the 2020 campaign. Trump, who is 76, would be 82 at the end of a second term in 2029. Biden, who is about to turn 80, would be 86.
Richard Goostein, a Democratic Party strategist, said the Democrats were divided on a new Trump bid.
“I think a lot of Democrats would pray that Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee, because he lost by three million votes in 2016,” Goodstein said, referring to how Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 but won the electoral college. “Trump lost by seven million in 2020, there’s no telling how many he would lose by 2024,” said Goostein. “But the fear is, if he did get elected, unchecked by the prospect of having to face voters again, his authoritarian nature would be unchecked and that’s a scary proposition.”
If he is ultimately successful, Trump would be just the second US president in history to serve two nonconsecutive terms, following Grover Cleveland’s wins in 1884 and 1892.
For his part, Biden – who was attending a G20 summit in Indonesia – responded to Trump’s announcement of another run by tweeting that the Republican leader had “failed” his country while in office.
The tweet was accompanied a video compilation saying Trump presided over “rigging economy for rich”, “attacking health care”, “coddling extremists”, “attacking women’s rights”, and “inciting a violent mob” to try to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden.
Later, while participating in a ceremonial mangrove planting with other G20 leaders, reporters asked Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron if they had reactions to the Trump announcement.
The two looked at each other briefly before Biden said “not really,” while Macron remained silent.