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Trump launches 2024 comeback bid vowing to ‘make America great and glorious’

Dallas Morning News logo Dallas Morning News 11/15/2022 Todd J. Gillman, The Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON – Donald Trump launched a comeback bid Tuesday night, jumping into the 2024 campaign as a divisive but formidable front-runner – buoyed by unshakable support from the base and resisted by a sizable number of party insiders.

“We are a nation in decline,” he told cheering backers at his Mar-a-Lago estate. “In order to make America great and glorious again I am tonight announcing my candidacy for president of the United States.”

Twice impeached and still refusing to acknowledge that he only won the White House once, the ex-president invoked many of the same themes that propelled him to the White House in 2016: a nationalist appeal mixed with dark warnings about lawlessness at the border and a loss of respect abroad.

“Our southern border has been erased and our country is being invaded by millions and millions of unknown people,” he said, and the nation’s cities are “rotting. They are indeed cesspools of blood.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would “never have happened if I were your president,” he said during a speech that lasted over an hour. “The past two years under Joe Biden have been a time of pain, hardship, anxiety and despair. … Our country is being destroyed before your very eyes. … America’s comeback starts right now.”

Trump remains a solid favorite of the Republican base. In a crowded primary field, his plurality support — around 40% — could be enough to pick off rivals one by one as he did in 2016, until Sen. Ted Cruz was the last serious obstacle.

But some GOP strategists – and potential rivals – cast him as a serial loser whose refusal to acknowledge his 2020 defeat cast a pall over the midterms, and whose nomination would lead them to yet another avoidable defeat in 2024.

The GOP’s failures, in turn, cast a pall over Trump’s campaign launch, instead of the triumphant victory lap he’d expected heading into the midterms.

Losses by Trump’s handpicked candidates in key Senate battlegrounds kept Republicans from netting even one seat, an epic bad showing. In the House, the GOP is limping toward a narrow majority instead of initiating dozens of freshmen as the party out of power usually does.

“Texas Democrats celebrate the announcement of our twice-impeached, under-investigation, under-subpoena, former president’s 2024 presidency bid. We look forward to Donald Trump galvanizing Democrats across the country for a fourth straight election cycle,” said Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, referring to 2018, when Republicans lost the House, 2020 when they lost the Senate and White House, and last week’s midterms.

Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager and senior White House adviser, told reporters in Washington this month that Trump considers himself the GOP’s best chance to keep Biden from a second term and he’s “sad and disappointed and frustrated” at the direction of the country since he left office.

“Everyday life is increasingly unaffordable. So Donald Trump feels I did it the first time, I can do it again,” she said.

Actively campaigning for president won’t shield Trump from any of the numerous investigations, including the Justice Department’s probe into why he had reams of official documents, including classified material, at his Florida estate that by law belonged with the National Archives once he left office.

But he will be able to more easily make the case that such investigations are politically motivated.

Pence: ‘Better choices’

Trump’s own vice president, Mike Pence — whose security detail at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, feared they wouldn’t survive the riot — issued a scathing, if understated, critique of a comeback bid: “That’s up to the American people. But I think we’ll have better choices,” he said in an interview with ABC’s David Muir released on Tuesday.

One of Trump’s White House press secretaries, Stephanie Grisham, took issue with his boast that he’d taken “decisive action” when the COVID-19 pandemic erupted. “I was there, in the meetings. He was worried about his re-election, not the country,” she tweeted as he spoke.

Shortly before taking the stage in Florida, Trump formalized his intentions with the Federal Election Commission, filing a statement of organization for the “Donald J. Trump for President 2024″ committee.

In his inauguration speech, Trump lamented “American carnage.” He invoked that term again Tuesday night as he asserted that gang violence is rampant and called for summary execution of drug dealers.

He railed against same-day voting, the use of anything in elections other than paper ballots. He vowed to protect children from so-called “critical race theory” and “gender insanity.”

“This is just the beginning of our national greatness agenda,” he said.

Roughly two dozen Republicans have been testing the waters for 2024.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is the leading alternative, with roughly half the support Trump registers in polls of GOP voters. That’s enough for Trump to slap a mocking if unexplained nickname on him — “Ron DeSanctimonious” — and to accuse him of lacking “loyalty and class” by toying with a run despite the help Trump had given him previously.

“If DeSantis and Trump both file, there won’t be much room for anybody else. They’re both such phenomenal candidates,” said Jennifer Stoddard Hajdu, the Dallas County GOP chair. “DeSantis is the one person I see that could attract the Trump supporters. — I love Trump. I think he’s fantastic.”

“Donald J. Trump is exactly the man America needs to save our nation from its rapid decline, courtesy of Joe Biden and the Democrat Party,” Houston-area congressman-elect Wesley Hunt said in a statement issued while Trump was still speaking.

Not all Texas Republicans are fans.

“Biden is a disaster. But Trump would be a worse disaster. … He’s a narcissistic, pathologically lying, delusional buffoon,” said Jerry Patterson, a three-term land commissioner. “The irony of it now is there’s only one person Trump can beat. And that’s Biden. And there’s only one person Biden can beat and that’s Trump.”

Will Hurd, a former GOP congressman from San Antonio, tweeted that the midterms showed that Trump is “a sunken ship, and entertaining his candidacy should be an easy pass for the GOP. America needs us to do better.

No red wave

Trump teased a presidential run for weeks in the runup to the midterms, starting when pundits, pollsters and strategists were still predicting a “red wave.”

The wave never materialized. But Trump forged ahead, inviting congressional allies and other VIPs to his Florida estate for the rollout.

In 2015, he and the future first lady Melania Trump descended a golden escalator at Trump Tower in New York for his launch. This launch took place in a gilt-adorned ballroom at his Florida estate.

Rivals, especially conservatives, initially dismissed him as a crude-mouthed, irreligious philanderer with little to offer besides celebrity and questionable business bona fides. He’d supported abortion rights and gay marriage. He’d been twice divorced.

Despite all that, Trump shoved aside one rival after another. Rick Perry, Texas’ longest serving governor, was an early casualty.

As president he delivered for the right “bigly,” as he liked to say.

He focused on building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. Tuesday night, he gave a shoutout to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, calling him “a very good man” who’s “working very hard” to cope with the migrant crisis.

The three Supreme Court justices he named shifted the high court so dramatically to the right that it overturned Roe vs. Wade in June.

Many Democrats believe he’d be relatively easy to beat in 2024, just as many of his election-denying acolytes fell in the midterms.

“This is a person who has undermined the integrity of our elections, has not honored his oath of office,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Sunday on ABC’s This Week. “I don’t think his candidacy is a force for good for our country. But that’s up to the Republicans to decide.”

And many of those Republicans yearn far more for evicting Democrats from the White House than for giving Trump another four years there.

“Every Republican I know is deeply frustrated by the president and what he’s doing,” Erick Erickson, the conservative commentator, said on CNN. “This is Trump panicking. And … he’s going to dig himself a hole.”

“We all know he will lose,” Paul Ryan, a former House speaker and the GOP’s nominee for vice president in 2012, said in a recent podcast. “Or let me put it this way: We all know he’s much more likely to lose the White House than anybody else running for president on our side of the aisle.”

©2022 The Dallas Morning News. Visit dallasnews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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