PALM BEACH: Donald Trump is seeking another term in office, hoping to become the first US president in 130 years to stage a comeback after being rejected by voters.
The question for Republicans is how to respond to a tainted candidate who many in the party wish would make way for a younger alternative with a better chance at reclaiming the White House two years from now.
But stepping quietly aside is not Trump’s style. By defiantly launching his presidential campaign early, barely a week after midterm elections dealt his party a blow, Trump is seeking to get ahead of potential rivals.
So what did Trump just do?
About 20 minutes into a rambling speech at his Mar-a-Lago resort, Trump announced that he would be a candidate for president in 2024. It was something he had been dangling for weeks, so it didn’t come as a surprise. In fact, just minutes before he walked into a gilded ballroom decked out with a long row of American flags, he had filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission declaring his candidacy. It’s a necessary step that allows him to raise money for his campaign.
Does this mean he’s now the Republican nominee?
No. While US political parties usually give incumbents a free pass to re-nomination for a second term, Trump’s defeat in the 2020 presidential election means he is no longer the official leader of the party. He never accepted the outcome of that election, spawning a movement of followers who embraced his baseless claim that widespread fraud robbed him of victory. Some of those followers took part in the Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021.
In 2022, Trump endorsed a lot of election deniers as candidates for governor and secretary of state as well as for Senate and the House of Representatives. But many went on to be defeated in the Nov. 8 elections.
While Trump still has a loyal following among rank-and-file Republicans, some party leaders and donors are looking past him, hoping to avoid a multi-candidate primary that would allow Trump to divide the competition and clear a path to the nomination.
Who else is in the running?
No one else has announced. But Ron DeSantis, fresh off his re-election as Florida governor last week, is widely seen as the most formidable rival. Trump nicknamed him “Ron DeSanctimonious” and threatened to reveal damaging information about him.
Other potential challengers getting attention include Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia; former Vice President Mike Pence; former Secretary of State Michael Pompeo; Senator Ted Cruz of Texas; Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina; and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.
President Joe Biden said he expects to run for a second term and will make an announcement next year. Biden turns 80 this month. Trump is 76. The issue of age has dogged both men.
How will the candidate be decided?
The contest for the Republican nomination will follow the usual path, a Byzantine series of state-by-state caucuses and primary elections in which Republican voters will send delegates to a national convention to select the nominee.
What happens next?
The 2024 election is still two years away, but candidates with an interest in the nomination — both announced and unannounced — will begin visiting states with early party primaries, including Iowa and New Hampshire. Those contests will be held in early 2024. Party-sponsored debates could begin as early as next spring.