(NewsNation) — Former President Donald Trump announced Tuesday night he will make a third run at the White House, kicking off an early start to the 2024 contest.
It’s a decision he’s been teasing for months, but one some Republicans wish he delayed a bit longer. Just hours before the speech, Decision Desk HQ projected the GOP would take the House with a slim majority. Some view this as disappointing since midterms have historically led to a windfall of seats for the party opposing the president.
How the Republican Party, and its voters, may embrace Trump in 2024 remains unseen. Several of Trump’s endorsed Senate candidates, such as Blake Masters in Arizona and Adam Laxalt in Nevada, came up short in their bids to flip control of that chamber. Herschel Walker is also in danger of falling in a runoff to Sen. Raphael Warnock.
Speaking in front of a crowd gathered at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, Trump proclaimed “America’s comeback starts right now.”
He proceeded to blame President Joe Biden, Democrats and “lunatics” for causing harm to America over the past two years and ruining his successes.
“Two years ago, we were a great nation, and soon we will be a great nation again,” Trump said during his speech, which lasted more than an hour. “I am running because I believe the world has not yet seen the true glory of what this nation can be.”
Trump has spent much of this year mired in controversies and lawsuits, ranging from the FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago estate, a probe out of Georgia into his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, a House investigation into his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and a monitoring of his finances by a New York court.
Democrats have assailed the possibility of Trump running again in 2024 as a danger to democracy, pointing to Trump’s continued lie that he won the 2020 presidential election.
Biden, who has yet to announce his 2024 candidacy but said he “intends to run,” blasted Trump and his supporters in multiple speeches as “ultra MAGA” Republicans who are seeking to destroy democracy.
“They promote authoritarian leaders, and they fan the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country,” Biden said.
During Trump’s speech, Biden tweeted from his personal account that his predecessor “failed America.” The tweet included a video with captions criticizing Trump’s record, claiming he attacked health care, coddled extremists and incited a violent mob.
Biden is currently overseas attending the G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, and said “not really” when asked if he had a reaction to Trump’s announcement. French President Emmanuel Macron, who was standing next to Biden at the time, stayed silent and did not respond to a question about his reaction on Trump, according to a pool report.
During his speech, the former president sought to deliver a message of unity and said his coalition can deliver for the United States.
“This is a task for a great movement that embodies the courage, confidence and spirit of the American people,” Trump said. “This is a job for tens of millions of proud people working together.”
He vowed to tackle inflation — which was running at 40-year highs this year — and said he will “put America first.”
“Every policy must be geared toward that which supports the American worker, the American family and businesses both large and small,” Trump said. “That means low taxes, low regulations and fair trade, much of which I’ve already completed.”
In a roughly three-minute segment of his speech, Trump listed a short list of policy objectives he hopes to achieve, including term limits for members of Congress and a lifetime ban on lobbying for former members of Congress.
Again promoting the false claim about “cheating in elections,” he also said he would “demand voter ID, same-day voting and only paper ballots.”
There is no evidence to support claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, and individual states enact their own laws about election administration.
Rumors have circulated that some in the Republican Party, including Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, are trying to distance themselves from Trump and would like to see the party move on from the Trump-centered drama created by the Jan. 6 investigative committee hearings, which have tested his strength.
When the dust settles from Trump’s announcement, speculation will surely turn to who, if anyone, would challenge him in a 2024 presidential primary. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been rumored to be a possible challenger, but there’s also been speculation he could join Trump on a ticket.
Trump is attempting something that’s only happened once in American history. The last president to lose reelection only to win the White House again later was Grover Cleveland in 1892. Only two others have even tried: Martin Van Buren in 1848 and Theodore Roosevelt in 1912.
A super PAC has already been formed to back DeSantis in 2024, and John Thomas, founder of the “Ron to the Rescue” group, said Trump has to move from being a party leader to a party elder.
“Primarily it’s because we have to win in 2024,” Thomas said. “I don’t care what Donald Trump throws at Ron DeSantis. You cannot escape the fact that Donald Trump’s endorsed candidates did not win in the midterms.”
Trump in his speech acknowledged the disappointing results, but claimed he told the party to lower their expectations about a “red wave.”
“I told them …if you’d just keep a little bit lower standard, you’re going to have a big victory,” Trump said. “They said, ‘Let’s win by 40 seats, let’s win by 50,’ and I said, ‘If you win by two seats, be happy.'”
Addressing crime, Trump vowed to “restore public safety” in American cities and said he would “insist” states and cities led by Democrats accept federal help in doing so.
“We’re gonna go and help them even if they don’t want the help,” Trump said. “The cities are rotting. I will immediately launch a no-holds-barred campaign to dismantle the gangs and clean out the nests of organized street crime.”
He struck a similar tone on border security, vowing to finish completion of the wall along the southern border and advocating for the death penalty against drug traffickers.
“We don’t need any more blue-ribbon committees,” he said.
Calling himself a “victim,” Trump railed against the Justice Department and FBI, which he said are being weaponized.
“As I have said before, the gravest threats to our civilization are not from abroad but from within. None is greater than the weaponization of the justice system,” Trump said. “We must conduct a top to bottom overhaul to clean out the festering, rotted corruption of Washington, D.C.”
Even after the GOP’s midterm losses, Trump remains the most powerful force in his party. For years, he has consistently topped his fellow Republican contenders by wide margins in hypothetical head-to-head matchups. And even out of office, he consistently attracts thousands to his rallies and remains his party’s most prolific fundraiser, raising hundreds of millions of dollars.
But Trump is also a deeply polarizing figure. Some 54 percent of voters in last week’s midterm elections viewed him very or somewhat unfavorably, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 94,000 voters nationwide. And an October AP-NORC poll found even Republicans have their reservations about him remaining the party’s standard-bearer, with 43% saying they don’t want to see him run for president in 2024.
Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Twitter that if Trump keeps up the tone and message he delivered Tuesday night, he will be hard to beat.
“His speech tonight, contrasting his policies and results against the Biden Administration, charts a winning path for him in the primaries and general election,” Graham said. “As we listen to President Trump remind us of what is possible regarding our borders, economy, and national security, it is my hope that he will continue to focus on the solutions that he offered tonight to restore a broken America.”
Some in Trump’s orbit believe that running will help shield him against potential indictment, but there is no legal statute that would prevent the Justice Department from moving forward — or prevent Trump from continuing to run if he is charged.
Still, Trump’s campaign will further complicate what is already a fraught decision by the Biden Justice Department, which will have to decide not only whether it believes Trump broke the law, but will face enormous political pressure for indicting the man who is now the sitting president’s chief political rival. Already, Trump has cast the probe as a politically motivated effort to derail his candidacy.
Aides who had succeeded in persuading Trump to delay his announcement until after the midterms had also urged him to wait until next month’s Senate runoff in Georgia. But Trump chose to ignore the advice.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.