Washington, DC – Former US President Donald Trump is expected to announce another run for the White House as his Republican Party reels from an underwhelming midterm election performance.
Trump will deliver a speech on Tuesday night likely to confirm his candidacy in the 2024 presidential race. For the past week, the former president has been lashing out against potential rivals for the Republican nomination, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin.
“Hopefully TODAY will turn out to be one of the most important days in the history of our Country!” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform early on Tuesday.
The former president’s stint at the White House – between 2017 and 2021 – was one of the most tumultuous in modern US history. He was impeached twice, and his harsh rhetoric, which critics say often veered into explicit bigotry, deeply polarised the country.
But despite his 2020 loss to President Joe Biden and subsequent false allegations of election fraud that culminated in an attack on the US Capitol by his supporters, the former president continued to hold major sway over the Republican Party.
Trump’s relatively short time in national US politics has been defined by his ability to overcome scandals and setbacks that would have been career-ending in previous eras. But many observers, including some Republicans, have questioned whether the former president can keep his hold on the GOP base after the party’s disappointing show in last week’s midterm vote.
Time for ‘new players’: Romney
On Tuesday, Senator Mitt Romney – one of the few vocal Republican critics of Trump – compared the ex-president to a popular athlete in the twilight of his career, citing the GOP’s losses in the 2018 midterms, 2020 presidential vote and last week’s election under the former president’s stewardship.
“I know, there’s some fans that love him. Just like, you know, an ageing pitcher, they’re always fans that want to keep them there forever. But if you keep losing games, try to put some new players on the field,” Romney told the Associated Press news agency.
Trump, a real estate mogul and former TV personality, had no political experience prior to running for president.
He announced his first run in 2015 in an incendiary speech where he referred to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” – remarks that set the tone for the rest of that campaign, in which he later called for a “total” ban on Muslims entering the US.
He used his fame, unscripted style and populist rhetoric to woo many disaffected conservative voters and win the Republican nomination in a crowded pool of candidates. Then he went on to defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the presidency in one of the biggest electoral upsets in US history.
In the White House, he often made headlines with his controversial tweets and comments. But he pursued a largely mainstream Republican approach of tax cuts and deregulations domestically. In foreign policy, he took a more aggressive approach to competition with China – a posture maintained by his successor, Biden.
He also aligned the US further with Israel, moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognising claimed Israeli sovereignty over Syria’s occupied Golan Heights – moves that violate international law and were widely rejected by the international community.
Still, Trump managed to broker normalisation agreements between Israel and several Arab states that found a common enemy in Iran and backed his “maximum pressure” approach to Tehran.
‘Run Trump run’
Despite his chaotic governing style and unceremonious exit from the White House, Trump never left the political scene. He continued to hold rallies and play an outsized role for a former president in his party. In the Republican primary ahead of the 2022 midterms, his endorsement was key to winning nominations for offices up and down the ballot.
But Trump’s critics say the country has changed drastically since he first came down a golden escalator at Trump Tower in New York City to announce his candidacy in 2015.
After years of political instability and the life-changing effects of the coronavirus pandemic, voters are craving normalcy and are fearful for the fate of US democracy amid the former president’s continuing rejection of the 2020 election outcome, they argue.
In the midterms, voters rejected dozens of Trump-backed election deniers in battleground states.
“Perhaps the biggest factor in terms of democracy being on the ballots and just Republicans’ lack of success in general is the fact that there’s a Republican ex-president named Donald Trump, who has refused to leave the stage,” David Cohen, a political science professor at The University of Akron in Ohio, told Al Jazeera.
After his loss in 2020 and the Republican setback in the 2022 midterms, some Democrats are cherishing the chance of a Biden-Trump rematch in 2024.
“Run Trump run!” Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen wrote on Twitter late last week.
But the former president’s supporters argue that he is the best candidate to mobilise Republicans in a presidential year. They also dismiss Trump’s role in the midterm election results, noting that Republicans suffered from low turnout and were outraised by Democrats, and that GOP candidates who were not supported by the former president also struggled in the November 8, 2022 midterms.
“Any effort to pin blame on Trump, and not on money and turnout, isn’t just wrong. It distracts from the actual issues we need to solve as a party over the long term,” JD Vance, a Trump-backed senator-elect from Ohio, wrote in the American Conservative on Monday.
Trump has already secured some endorsements for the 2024 race, including from senior House Republican Elise Stefanik.
But as other candidates, namely Florida’s DeSantis, emerge as viable alternatives to Trump, more Republican officials and operatives are breaking away from the former president.
Asked whether she would support Trump for president, Republican Senator Cynthia Lummis told reporters this week: “I don’t think that’s the right question. I think the question is who is the current leader of the Republican Party. Oh, I know who it is – Ron DeSantis.”
Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence – who fell out with the ex-president over the January 6, 2021 US Capitol riot – has signalled that he may seek the presidency himself.
Asked in an interview with ABC News whether Trump should be president again, Pence said Americans are seeking leaders with “compassion and generosity of spirit”.
“I think that’s up to the American people. But I think we’ll have better choices in the future,” he said.
Not going away
Still, some analysts say Trump’s grip on the Republican base is so firm that it will be difficult to push him off the proverbial stage.
“There’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that Republicans will be successful in sidelining Donald Trump unless Donald Trump decides to sideline himself,” Cohen, the political science professor, said.
As he gears up for a presidential run, Trump remains swamped with a long list of legal issues. He is locked in a battle with a congressional committee trying to obtain his tax records.
Separately, the Department of Justice is conducting a criminal investigation into the ex-president’s possible mishandling of secret government documents.
A congressional panel investigating the deadly attack on the US Capitol by Trump’s supporters also recently issued a subpoena for Trump to testify under oath before the committee. He has defied that subpoena, failing to appear for testimony Monday. His lawyers filed a lawsuit Friday to avoid being compelled to testify or provide documentation to the committee.
Trump has denied wrongdoing in all the cases, alleging that they are political attacks led by his Democratic rivals.
The US Constitution limits presidents to two four-year terms in the White House. Grover Cleveland is the only US president to serve nonconsecutive terms, having been elected for his second spell at the White House in 1892.