The who caused an uprising in January 2021 is back. On Tuesday night, Donald Trump launched his bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. In front of Mar-a-Lago’s cringing faithful, he attacked Joe Biden and bemoaned the state of the US in his own absence. “Embarrassed”, “humiliated” and “glory” emerged as buzzwords of the evening.
The speech sounded like a repeat of his inaugural address. The US has been warned. Unless “45” goes to jail soon, expect the next few months to be a constant pity fest fueled by a bottomless pit of grievances. In his own words he has been “persecuted” and “victim”. His son Eric is the dishonest recipient of a series of subpoenas.
Whether this witch’s brew is enough to get the one-time president to the finish line ahead of future rivals and the current resident of the West Wing is open to question. Ivanka Trump has already announced that she will not be part of her father’s campaign: “This time I choose to prioritize my young children.”
Sarah Matthews, the former Trump aide who emerged as a hero at the House Select Committee hearing, took a swipe himself. “This is one of the most energetic, uninspired speeches I’ve ever heard from Trump,” she tweeted. “Even the audience seems to be bored. Not exactly what you want when announcing a presidential run.
Last week, the Republican party lost a Senate seat and failed to come close to a much-lauded red wave. High gas prices, rising mortgage rates and non-transient inflation paled in comparison to Trump’s malice. Democracy was at stake and voters responded. To all this, he took a deep primetime bow.
Segments of the conservative establishment are already signaling that they are done with Trump — at least for now. On Monday, Cynthia Lummis — a Wyoming senator who opposed Joe Biden’s certification — referred to Ron DeSantis as “the leader of the Republican party, whether he likes it or not.”
Last week a headline in the New York Post blared: “DeFUTURE”; another yelled, “TRUMPTY DUMPTY.” Meanwhile, Ken Griffin, a Republican mega-donor, called ex-Trump a “triple loser” at a Bloomberg forum in Singapore just hours before Trump’s announcement. “It’s time for the country to move forward.”
Ann Coulter, a mainstay of conservative commentary and foe of “globalists,” tweeted, “To Trump: You had your chance, with a Republican House and Senate… Shut up, forever.”
The division of the Republican party is now clearly visible.
The current election cycle is not yet complete. On Dec. 6, Georgians will go to the polls again in a runoff election that pits Herschel Walker, a hand-picked Trump candidate, against incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock. In the gambling markets, Walker is now the clear underdog. At Mar-a-Lago, Trump reiterated his endorsement: “Get out and vote for Herschel.”
The abortions Walker allegedly paid for continue to come at a political price. Trump’s latest re-election bid does him no favors.
Election denial propelled Warnock to his first win in a runoff in January 2021. It also cost the Republicans the Senate — just before the then-president’s followers invaded the Capitol and attempted to light the torch to democracy.
Right now, the 2024 New Hampshire Republican primary stands out as an all-ages contest, one that could pit a highly popular Republican governor, DeSantis, against the man who reformed Lincoln’s party in his own image.
A Trump loss in New Hampshire could be fatal to his chances. He won there in 2016 and never really looked back. Whether DeSantis is an updated version of Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio remains to be seen. One thing is certain: Trump would love a big field.
For now, however, DeSantis has the wind at his back. He is an incumbent governor who won re-election by nearly 20 points. Gradually, he took in Trump’s message and adopted parts of his facial expression — without being labeled licentious.
But even if DeSantis emerges as the nominee, victory could be pyrrhic. If the past is a prelude, Trump could label his own defeat the product of a rigged system, inviting his loyalists to sit out the general election. After losing the Iowa caucus in 2016, he did just that. He credits his second-place finish there to what he called cheating by Ted Cruz.
“You know, at the end of the day, I would just tell people to look at last Tuesday night’s scoreboard,” DeSantis insisted as the clock ticked to Trump’s announcement. The governor is expected to announce his candidacy early next year. Others may very well join the fray.
Whether the Justice Department will indict Trump is the big unanswered question. Hours before the announcement, Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of Trump Organizatino, took the witness stand in the criminal case against the company. The game begins.