Former President Donald Trump Tuesday announced his 2024 candidacy for president in a speech that punched hard at Democrats but skipped over his GOP rivals – staying on message in a way strikingly different from his traditional rallies.
Trump spoke at a moment when many Republicans are distancing themselves from him after lackluster midterm elections for the party. GOP lawmakers, even some traditionally supportive of Trump, hoped he would delay an announcement until after Georgia Senate runoffs, fearing his rhetoric could divide Republicans and drag down GOP candidate Herschel Walker.
But Trump's speech, in a tone subdued compared to his traditional campaign rallies, avoided intra-party sniping and denials of the President Biden's 2020 election victory. There was no reference to "Ron DeSanctimonious," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., or other rivals Trump has gone after as recently as the past few days on his "Truth Social" account.
Instead, he largely focused on touting himself as the person to fix problems plaguing the U.S. under Biden.
"America's comeback starts right now," Trump told an enthusiastic crowd that included many members of his inner circle and at various points chanted, "Trump, Trump" and "USA, USA."
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"In order to make America great and glorious again, I am announcing tonight my candidacy for president of the United States," Trump said.
Trump hit on many of his signature issues, including crime, drugs and illegal immigration. He also covered new ground, calling for congressional term limits, regulations on stock trading for federal lawmakers, and lobbying bans for former members of the Cabinet and Congress.
Trump slammed Biden on his withdrawal from Afghanistan, alleging that the current president made the U.S. a "laughingstock." And he attacked Biden for the United States' assistance to Ukraine in its war against Russia.
"Perhaps the most embarrassing moment in the history of our country," Trump said, referring to Afghanistan. "We lost lives, left Americans behind and surrendered $85 billion of the finest military equipment anywhere in the world.
"Unlike Biden possibly getting us into World War III, which can seriously happen," Trump said, "I will keep America out of foolish and unnecessary foreign wars."
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But he painted an optimistic future of the United States if he's reelected.
"I am running because I believe the world has not yet seen the true glory of what this nation can be," Trump said.
"We will heal our divisions and bring our people back together through incredible success," he added. "We will shatter the forces of tyranny, and we will unleash the glories of liberty for ourselves and for our children, and for generations yet to come. America's golden age is just ahead."
The crowd was filled with Trump loyalists, including Ric Grenell, Roger Stone, Tony Bobulinski, Mike Lindell, Jason Miller, Boris Epshtyn and Devin Nunes.
Much of Trump's family was also there, including his wife Melania, his children Lara, Eric and Barron, and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Trump's presidential announcement comes several months before modern White House candidates traditionally announce their presidential bids. The midterms are not even finished, with some House races still uncalled and the Georgia runoff weeks away.
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Trump Tuesday also veered into some of his previous grievances. He griped that the media hasn't covered the success rate of his congressional endorsements in 2022 and alleged that China interfered in the 2020 election. He attacked Christopher Steele and his discredited dossier, slammed the FBI raid of his home, and complained about subpoenas for members of his family.
But Trump generally spent just a few seconds on those issues before getting back on message. He also attacked the use of mail-in ballots but skipped the false stolen election claims that often come when he addresses the topic.
Trump first won the presidency in 2016 against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. If he is elected again, he would become only the second president to retake the White House after having been ousted, a feat achieved by Grover Cleveland in 1892.
Since his 2020 loss to President Biden, Trump has challenged the legitimacy of the 2020 election results, repeatedly claiming the race was "rigged," due to the COVID pandemic-era process of mail-in ballots. Trump's legal team filed a slew of lawsuits in battleground states across the nation.
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The former president was heavily involved in the midterms, throwing his support behind Republican candidates across the nation. During the primaries, the majority of Trump-endorsed candidates were victorious. But many of his most important endorsements struggled and lost in the general elections, including candidates for Senate and governor.