By EMMANUEL YASHIM
UNITED STATES- Donald Trump, who has mounted relentless attacks on the integrity of U.S. voting since his 2020 election defeat, on Tuesday launched a bid to regain the presidency in 2024, aiming to pre-empt potential Republican rivals.
He is making another White House bid in 2024, defying calls from key party leaders and donors for the GOP to move on from the former president after devastating losses in last week’s midterms.
Trump filed federal paperwork to declare that he is running again ahead of a speech on Tuesday night, where hundreds of his supporters gathered in the gilded ballroom at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, becoming the first major contender from either party to formally declare.
His paperwork with the Federal Election Commission was filed 23 minutes before the scheduled start of his announcement speech, designating his campaign committee for fundraising.
He later greeted his supporters.
In a speech broadcast live on U.S. 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,” Trump said to a cheering phone-waving crowd of donors and longtime supporters. “America’s comeback starts right now.”
Trump steered clear of the name-calling that has marked other public appearances, opting instead for a critique of Joe Biden’s presidency and a review of what he said were the policy achievements of his own time in office.
“Two years ago, we were a great nation and soon we will be a great nation again,” he said.
The former president laid out familiar dark themes from his playbook, denouncing migrants – “We’re being poisoned” – and portraying American cities as in the grip of a crime wave that has left them “cesspools of blood”.
He said he would push for the death penalty for drug dealers and term limits for lawmakers and rehire members of the military who had been dismissed for refusing to get the Coronavirus vaccine.
Although he assailed the U.S. election process, he did not use his speech to relive his false claims of massive voter fraud in 2020 and did not mention the Jan 6, 2021 attack by his supporters on the U.S. Capitol.
Trump predicted that his campaign will be opposed by left-wing groups, the Washington establishment, and the news media. “But we will not be intimidated.`We will persevere. We will march forward into the torrent.”
There is a long road ahead before the Republican nominee is formally selected in the summer of 2024, with the first state-level contests more than a year away.
President Biden responded on Wednesday to Trump’s announcement by saying that the Republican “failed” his country while in office.
“Donald Trump failed America,” Biden posted on Twitter from Bali, where he was attending the last day of the Group of 20 summit.
The tweet was accompanied by a video compilation saying that Trump presided over “rigging economy for rich”, “attacking health care”, “coddling extremists”, “attacking women’s rights”, and “inciting a violent mob” to try and overturn his 2020 election loss to Biiden.
Trump’s announcement follows a disappointing showing in last week’s midterm congressional elections that many Republicans blame on him.
Hours before the speech, supporters began filling a ballroom decorated with several chandeliers and lined with dozens of American flags.
The 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 own former vice-president Mike Pence, 63.
It comes as Republicans closed in on the 218 seats they need to take a majority in the 435-seat House of Representatives.
Sources close to Trump, 76, said he planned to push ahead despite mixed results from his endorsements this year, with losses by celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and Don Bolduc in New Hampshire contributing to Republicans’ failure to win a majority in the U.S. Senate.
Another Trump-picked candidate, former football star Herschel Walker, was forced into a Dec. 6 run-off in his Georgia race against Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock.
That has raised some concerns that Trump’s announcement could, again, hurt the party’s chances in a Georgia run-off, similar to the January 2021 run-off that gave Democrats their current majority.
Multiple Trump-aligned candidates who ran on platforms focused on his false claims of widespread election fraud were also defeated.
Conservative columnist Marc Thiessen urged him not to run again.
“That should be a wake-up call for Trump. He cannot win the presidency with his base alone,” Thiessen wrote in a Washington Post column. “His conduct since losing office has made him unelectable.”
Jason Miller, a Trump adviser, said the former president will urge his supporters to back Walker in a speech that he described as “forward-looking”.
Trump decided to make his announcement now to provide some excitement for Republicans, Miller said.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken before the midterm elections showed that 53 per cent of Americans and almost one in four Republicans view Trump unfavourably.
The poll showed a similar number of Americans viewing Biden unfavourably.
Trump plans to launch his campaign nearly two years before the Nov 5, 2024, election despite these concerns, said two sources familiar with his plans.
Pence released a book on Tuesday detailing Trump’s unsuccessful pressure campaign to overturn his 2020 defeat.
DeSantis, whom Trump has given the derisive nickname “Ron DeSanctimonious”, handily won re-election last week.
On Tuesday afternoon, a plane towed a banner above Mar-a-Lago that read “You lost again Donald! #DeSantis2024”. (Reuters/NAN)