WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump announced Tuesday night that he was running for president in 2024, laying out an aggressively conservative agenda that includes executing people convicted of selling drugs.
The campaign will be Trump’s third run for president, but his first time trying to win votes since his refusal to accept his 2020 election loss and his frantic effort to hold onto power led to the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
“We are a nation in decline. We are a failing nation for millions of Americans,” Trump said in a speech at his private Florida club, attacking President Joe Biden’s record in his first two years in office. “I will ensure Joe Biden does not receive four more years.”
Trump filed papers with the Federal Election Commission earlier Tuesday night in which he declared himself a candidate for the presidency and established a new campaign committee.
“This campaign will be about issues, vision and success, and we will not stop, we will not quit, until we’ve achieved the highest goals and made our country greater than it has ever been before,” Trump said.
Trump barely mentioned the 2020 presidential race, nor did he bring up his two separate impeachments trials, the first for leveraging U.S. foreign aid in an effort to extort Ukraine into investigating the Biden family, and the second for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Instead of dwelling on his time in office, Trump’s speech Tuesday echoed his 2016 campaign speeches in many ways, painting a dystopian picture of America as a failing nation ravaged by violent crime during “a time of pain, hardship, anxiety and despair.”
Trump said the “gravest threat to our civilization” was what he called the weaponization of the Justice Department and the FBI, which is currently investigating his handling of classified documents and his role in a massive effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election results and prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s victory.
He called for a “top-to-bottom overhaul and clean out of the festering rot and corruption of Washington, D.C.”
Trump also said he would demand a sweeping new slate of election restrictions, including requiring only paper ballots, only allowing voters one day to vote, requiring photo ID in order to vote and “all votes counted by election night.”
“I’ll get that job done,” he said. “That’s a very personal job for me. I take that very personally.”
Voting in America is run by states, however, and not the federal government. Even if Trump were president and he had the backing of a Republican Congress, he could not change how individual states conduct elections.
During the 2022 election cycle, Trump promoted and donated to a group of 2020 election denying candidates in battleground states who were running for positions overseeing their states’ elections. The races were in Michigan, Arizona, Minnesota and Nevada, and every one of Trump’s candidates lost.
By launching his campaign now, just a week after Republicans lost key midterm races, Trump was also rejecting the counsel of current and former advisors who had cautioned him against declaring himself a candidate for president so soon after a defeat for his party.
Trump’s filing with the F.E.C. created the Donald J. Trump for President 2024, and officially launched the 2024 Republican presidential primary, a contest where the dynamics have shifted dramatically in the past week.
Before last Tuesday, Trump, 76, was the undisputed frontrunner in his party’s nominating contest, with polls showing the former president’s support among Republican voters averaging more than 20 percentage points over his closest rival, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
But that was before DeSantis won reelection by an extraordinary 19-point margin, electrifying Republicans nationwide and offering the party a bright spot on a day when Democrats won most of the major Senate and governors’ races.
Now some of the early, post-election polling by YouGov shows DeSantis taking a lead over Trump.
The Florida governor has reportedly met with donors and started assembling his own presidential campaign to challenge Trump for the GOP nomination.
“I have only begun to fight,” DeSantis promised supporters in his reelection victory speech.
Trump’s mounting legal problems will also be a factor in any coming primary and general election battles. His family real estate and hotel empire is facing a sweeping fraud lawsuit in New York state that could permanently cripple its operations and slash his personal wealth.
Trump is also facing a probe in Georgia of his attempts to overturn the 2020 election results in the state.
Trump’s new status as a candidate are not expected to impact either the fraud suit or the Georgia case.
But now that Trump is officially Biden’s political opponent in the 2024 election, Attorney General Merrick Garland will need to decide whether to appoint a special counsel to take over the daily management of the federal investigations into Trump.
The White House is keen to avoid any suggestion that the investigation and potential prosecution of the president’s chief rival is politically motivated, or that it is designed in any way to damage Trump’s 2024 election prospects.
Whoever wins the Republican primary will likely face President Joe Biden. The president has yet to formally launch his reelection campaign, but plans for a campaign have reportedly solidified in recent weeks.
On Tuesday, Trump accused Biden of mishandling the economy. “In two years, the Biden administration has destroyed the U.S. economy. Destroyed,” he said.
The prospect of a long primary between Trump and DeSantis would be great news for Democrats, in part because Democratic campaign strategists see DeSantis as a formidable challenger.
Biden likes the idea, too. When a reporter asked him on Nov. 9 about Trump and DeSantis, the president said, “It’ll be fun watching them take on each other.”
Despite his setbacks, Trump remains the undisputed leader of the Republican party, and his loyal base of MAGA conservatives are also Republican primary voters, making him a serious contender right from the start.
This week, the Washington Post reported that Trump plans to build a campaign team that looks and feels more like the skeleton crew of loyal aides who ran his successful 2016 run, and less like the massive operation that his failed 2020 reelection bid grew into.
Trump enters the race with more than $60 million in cash held by his leadership PAC, Save America, and a prodigious fundraising operation that vacuums up small-dollar donations at an unprecedented rate.
Federal Election Commission rules prohibit Trump from using the leadership PAC money to directly finance his presidential campaign.