Friday, 2 December, 2022

Trump poised to launch 2024 comeback bid

Former US president Donald Trump is expected to officially launch another White House bid on Tuesday, refusing calls from within his own Republican Party to fade away after his loyalists underperformed in this year's midterm elections.

The 76-year-old billionaire, whose 2016 win shocked America and the world, has summoned the press to his Florida mansion for a "very big announcement" at 9:00 pm Tuesday (0200 GMT Wednesday).

"President Trump is going to announce on Tuesday that he's running for president," said one of his advisors, Jason Miller.

He said the speech would be "very professional, very buttoned up" although he expected a large group of supporters to be there, waving placards.

Known for his unpredictability, Trump could still change his mind at the last minute, but for months he has barely hidden his desire to vie for the presidency again in 2024.

And delaying the announcement now, as some of his advisors have reportedly suggested to him, would be highly awkward considering Trump's boast that it would "perhaps be the most important speech given in the history of the USA."

- 'Red wave' crashes -

In 2016, Trump and the Republicans swept into power, taking control of the White House and maintaining their majorities in both chambers of Congress.

But Democrats won back the House of Representatives in a 2018 landslide after campaigning largely against Trump's caustic style.

They completed their trifecta of US political power by taking the Senate and the White House in 2020.

President Joe Biden, whose victory Trump has refused to acknowledge, recently revealed he is planning to run for a second term, although he said he will make a final decision next year.

After leaving Washington in chaos shortly after his partisans stormed the US Capitol, Trump chose to remain in the political arena, continuing to fundraise and hold rallies around the country.

Leading up to the 2022 midterm vote, in which Biden's Democrats had been expected to lose handily, Trump made denial of the 2020 election results a key litmus test for candidates to win his influential political endorsement.

But the predicted Republican "red wave" failed to materialize, and Democrats will maintain their control of the Senate. In the still-undecided House, Republicans seem likely to eke out only a razor-thin majority.

The results have emboldened Trump's Republican detractors and sapped most of his political momentum heading into the Tuesday campaign launch.

- Florida showdown -

Part of the conservative world has already turned to another possible White House contender who, like Trump, is a resident of Florida: Governor Ron DeSantis.

The 44-year-old rising star of the hard right has emerged in strong form after his resounding re-election victory in the southern state and appears poised to challenge the former president.

Tuesday's announcement is widely seen as a way for Trump to take the wind out of the sails of potential rivals, including DeSantis and his own former vice president, Mike Pence, who is publishing his memoirs on the same day.

For the moment, Trump retains an undeniable popularity with his base, a tide of die-hard fans in red baseball caps who continue to flock to his rallies. A majority of polls likewise give him the lead in a hypothetical Republican primary.

His White House pursuit will be hampered though by multiple investigations into his conduct before, during and after his first term as president -- which could ultimately result in his disqualification.

Those include allegations of fraud by his family business, his role in last year's January 6 attack on the US Capitol and his handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, his private Florida mansion, which was raided by the FBI in August.

But Trump is no stranger to scandal, and despite countless negative headlines as well as two impeachments, retains solid support among his party.