By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Donald Trump has formally launched his bid to return to the White House in 2024, just one week after voters largely rejected his chosen candidates in midterm elections and even as he faces multiple federal investigations that could see him become the first former U.S. president to be criminally charged.
Standing Tuesday evening in the ballroom at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida mansion, before a crowd of well-wishers, Trump promised to take on “globalist sell-outs” and “radical-left lunatics” and crack down on the country’s southern border, in a speech that returned to the nationalism that has been his political brand.
“We will be paying a big price for the invasion into this country for years to come,” he said. “The blood-soaked streets of our once-great cities are cesspools of violent crime.”
The announcement was overshadowed by Russia’s escalation of its attacks on Ukraine Tuesday and blasts in NATO member Poland suspected to have come from Russian missiles, drawing a stark contrast between the U.S.’s heavy international engagement under President Joe Biden and the isolationism to which Trump promises to return.
His entry into the race ensures that his form of populism – isolationism on foreign policy, cracking down on immigration and curbing free trade – will remain a central factor in U.S. politics, as will his persistent election denialism.
Trump’s political capital is at a low ebb after last week’s midterms, in which candidates he backed failed to win key swing states, allowing Biden’s Democrats to defy predictions of a “red wave.”
Most of Trump’s acolytes pushed his lie that the 2020 election had been stolen – and some adopted far-right language on immigration and abortion – allowing the Democrats to cast them as extremists, deflecting Republican attacks on inflation and crime.
The failures have opened the door to potential challenges for the Republican nomination. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who cruised to re-election last week, was one of the party’s few far-right figures to fare well, and is mulling a presidential bid. Moderate Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has hinted that he may also run. Mike Pence, Trump’s own former vice-president, is testing the waters on a book tour.
More broadly, the Republicans will have to reckon with what sort of party they want to be. Mr. Trump, for all his popularity with the base, lost the popular vote in both previous presidential runs and also watched the party twice lose Congress while he was in office.
“This should be a signal to Republicans: you lose elections when you nominate Donald Trump. You lose elections when you nominate Donald Trump-like candidates,” said Gunner Ramer, political director for the Republican Accountability Project, a conservative group that opposes Trump.
Trump is the only U.S. president to have been impeached twice, once for fomenting the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol by his election-denying supports, and previously for soliciting Ukraine’s interference in the 2020 election to tarnish Biden.
He currently faces a criminal investigation into his failed efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his taking of classified documents from the White House to Mar-a-Lago. It is unclear what will happen if the FBI determines that he committed a crime. Nothing is stopping Attorney-General Merrick Garland from charging a former president with a crime, though Trump’s status as a candidate may cause him to hesitate for fear of stoking further tensions.
If he were to win in 2024, Trump would be only the second U.S. president to receive a non-consecutive term, after Grover Cleveland in 1892. He would also be the first person since Richard Nixon in 1968 to win his party’s nomination after previously losing an election. Biden said last week that it is his “intention” to run for a second term, but he would not make a final decision until next year.