SALEM, NH (AP) – Former President Donald Trump kicked off his 2024 White House bid with a stopover in New Hampshire on Saturday before heading to South Carolina. Events in early-voting states marked the first campaign appearances since announcing its last run more than two months ago.
“We’re starting right here as a presidential candidate,” Trump told party leaders at the New Hampshire GOP’s annual meeting in Salem, before stopping in Columbia late afternoon to introduce his South Carolina leadership team. “I’m more angry and committed now than I’ve ever been.”
Trump and his allies hope events in states with tremendous power in choosing the candidate will provide a show of force behind the former president after a slow start to his campaign that has seen many question his commitment to running again. In recent weeks, his supporters have reached out to political activists and elected officials to secure support for Trump at a critical juncture when other Republicans are preparing their own awaited challenges.
In New Hampshire, Trump promoted his campaign agenda, including immigration and crime, and said his policies are the opposite of President Joe Biden’s. He cited the Democrats’ move to change the election calendar, which cost New Hampshire its leading spot, and accused Biden, a fifth-place finisher in New Hampshire in 2020, of “nefariously destroying this beloved political tradition.”
“I hope you will remember this during the general election,” Trump told party members. Trump himself won the primary twice, but lost the state to the Democrats each time.
While Trump remains the only declared presidential candidate for 2024, potential challengers are expected to include Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who was Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations , will launch their campaign in the coming months.
In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster, US Senator Lindsey Graham and several members of the state’s congressional delegation planned to attend Trump’s event at the Statehouse.
Trump’s team has struggled to garner support from South Carolina lawmakers, even from some who had previously ardently supported him. Some have said that more than a year after the primary is too early to make any confirmations or that they are waiting to see who else will run. Others have said it is time for the party to move past Trump to a new generation of leaders.
Dave Wilson, president of the conservative Christian nonprofit Palmetto Family, said some conservative voters may have concerns about Trump’s recent comments that Republicans, who are unequivocally anti-abortion, cost the party in November’s election.
“It’s giving some people in the conservative ranks of the Republican Party pause as to whether we need the process to sort itself out,” said Wilson, whose group hosted Pence 2021 for a speech.
But Gerri McDaniel, who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign, dismissed the idea that voters were ready to back away from the former president. “Some media keep saying that he is losing his support. No he isn’t,” she said. “It’s only going to get bigger than before because there are so many people who are angry about what’s happening in Washington.”
The South Carolina event, scheduled for a government building, was somewhat uncharacteristic of a former reality TV star who has typically favored large rallies and attempted to cultivate an outsider image. Rallies are expensive, and Trump added new financial challenges when he decided to start his campaign in November — well earlier than many had called for. This puts him under strict fundraising regulations and prohibits him from using his well-funded Political Action Committee to fund such events, which can cost millions of dollars.
Trump’s campaign has caused controversy in its early stages, notably when he dined with Holocaust-denying white nationalist Nick Fuentes and the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who made a string of anti-Semitic comments. Trump was also widely ridiculed for selling a series of digital trading cards depicting him as a superhero, cowboy, and astronaut, among other things.
He is the subject of a number of criminal investigations, including an investigation into the discovery of hundreds of documents with secret markings at his Florida club and whether he obstructed justice by refusing to return them, as well as state and federal investigations of his efforts to overthrow them the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to Biden.
Still, Trump remains the only announced candidate for 2024, and early polls show he’s a favorite for his party’s nomination.
“The gun has been fired and the campaign season has begun,” said Stephen Stepanek, outgoing leader of the New Hampshire Republican Party. Trump announced that Stepanek will serve as his senior adviser on his state election campaign.
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