As some have suspected, Donald Trump’s announcement that he will run for president of the United States in 2024 was not a prank or a scheme to evade prison. He is traveling and creating the kind of foundation required for a real effort to retake the White House.
The former president made his first campaign appearance outside of Florida on Saturday, nearly three months after announcing his bid.
He addressed a Republican Party gathering in New Hampshire and declared the departing state party chair would serve as a key campaign adviser. He also earned the support of Senator Lindsey Graham and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster at the statehouse in Columbia.
The latter, a Trump ally who showed some disenchantment following the violence at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, is now firmly back in the fold.
How often have you heard the statement, “We like Trump’s policies, but we want someone new?” Mr. Graham questioned the audience. “Without Donald Trump, there would be no Trump policies. I was present.”
Once more, Mr. Trump disputed his loss in the 2020 election and assured his followers that he would be the most successful contender for the Republican Party in 2024, unlike any potential rivals.
He declared from the main hall of the state capitol, “To alter the whole system, you need a president who can take on the whole system and a president who can win.
In both appearances, Mr. Trump bragged about his accomplishments as president and criticized President Joe Biden’s record on crime, immigration, and the economy.
Todd Gerhardt, a Charleston-area Republican district executive committee member, was selling honey in plastic bottles styled like Donald Trump across the street.
Mr. Gerhardt organized a gathering for Mr. Trump in South Carolina’s affluent Kiawah Island, and he most recently went to the former president’s Mar-a-Lago resort for a fundraiser and to provide his honey for the campaign’s gift bags.
He downplayed worries that Republican voters in South Carolina and elsewhere in the country would be seeking a new nominee this time around, claiming that Mar-a-Lago had a joyful environment as the Trump team prepared for the next fight.
According to Gerhardt, “Trump has done it when people talk about other candidates running and they say I’m going to do this or I’m going to do that. He is using all of the oxygen in space.
However, earlier in the day, at a street market a few streets from the capital, Mr. Trump’s visit to Columbia didn’t seem to make much of an impression. A customer at a nearby coffee shop complained that it was improper for the former president to host a campaign rally on state property, but the majority of people there were unaware that he was in town.
Another local remarked, “There doesn’t seem to be the same enthusiasm for Trump this time around.”
It’s no accident that South Carolina and New Hampshire were the first two destinations on Mr. Trump’s third presidential campaign tour. The two states may end up being crucial to Mr. Trump’s plan to win back the White House.
Although Mr. Trump placed third there in 2016, the evangelical Christians who control the state’s Republican electorate may be considering other candidates, such as former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Iowa is the first state to hold a Republican presidential nomination contest in 2024.
But Mr. Trump received a one-two punch from New Hampshire and South Carolina in 2016 that propelled him to the lead, which he never gave up.
The same thing is possible in 2024. In reality, South Carolina is distinct from the conventional early-voting states in that every Republican presidential contender since 1980 has won the state’s primary.
But this time, South Carolina might present Mr. Trump with a special challenge. Senator Tim Scott and former governor Nikki Haley of the state could both run against him.
If this is a pivotal moment for Mr. Trump, it comes at a time when public opinion polls are starting to stabilize for him after his support dropped in the aftermath of Republicans’ disappointing results in November’s midterm congressional elections.
An Emerson Poll conducted earlier this week found 55% of Republican voters supporting Mr. Trump, well ahead of the 29% for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has not announced a presidential bid but is viewed to be the former president’s most formidable rival. A Monmouth poll in December had Mr. DeSantis ahead by double-digits.
In the wake of his supporters’ assault on the US Capitol earlier this week, Meta stated that it was lifting the suspension it had imposed on Mr. Trump’s accounts. Even if the former president hasn’t started posting again, his reappearance might present another chance for voter outreach and funding as his still-sparsely staffed campaign prepares for its 2024 bid.
If Mr. Trump’s previous presidential campaigns were fueled by rallies and Facebook donations, his stop in South Carolina was a different kind of operation.
It was a much more low-key affair than his usual arena gatherings with their carnival vibe, with barely 300 announced guests. Instead of caps and Let’s Go Brandon t-shirts, the preferred attire was sports coats and gowns.
However, Mr. Trump will need the backing of both his rally-goers and the political rank-and-file in places like New Hampshire and South Carolina to win a third Republican presidential nomination. While Mr. Trump continues to perform well in national surveys, nearly half of the Republican voters in a recent South Carolina poll said they would choose “someone else” over Mr. Trump.
However, the name “someone else” won’t be on the primary ballot. And since he is still the only declared contender with just over a year until voting begins, Donald Trump is experimenting with various approaches to make his case.
In New Hampshire, Mr. Trump added, “They say he’s not holding rallies and he’s not campaigning, maybe he’s lost his stride.” “I’m more enraged and committed than I’ve ever been.”