NEW YORK — From the moment he walked out of the White House last year, Donald Trump has teased the prospect of a third presidential campaign. But in the week since he officially announced his candidacy, the former president has been unusually reticent.
There was no big opening rally at the stadium, remarkable for someone who has made such events a signature of his public life. His newly established Twitter account, which helped fuel his political rise nearly a decade ago, is silent with its more than 87 million followers.
He has not announced plans to visit the key early-election states that will shape the race for the Republican nomination, nor has he attended a round of high-profile interviews. In fact, Trump has not held a public event since his announcement speech.
“His lack of a schedule makes you wonder if he’s really going or if this is just a business development opportunity or a distraction from Justice Department activities,” said veteran GOP strategist Scott Reed, citing Justice Department investigations into Trump’s handling with secret documents and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, which is expected to intensify in the coming weeks.
Trump, who never held public office before winning the presidency in 2016, has never appreciated the rhythm and organization associated with traditional campaigns. And several aides noted that Trump, who made his announcement unusually early and a week before the Thanksgiving holiday, is careful to divert attention from the Dec. 6 Senate runoff in Georgia that will conclude this year’s midterm elections. The aides, who insisted on anonymity to discuss campaign strategy, said Trump will ramp up his schedule soon.
But the easy start to the campaign reflects the hasty and chaotic nature of his announcement, which came when votes were still being counted for the midterm elections and even when some of his closest aides and allies had urged him to delay the election until after the Georgia runoff move. It also comes at a moment of unique political vulnerability for Trump.
The former president, who spent his post-White House years positioning himself as the undisputed leader of the GOP, is now facing fierce criticism within the party for contributing to a disappointing performance in this month’s midterm elections. And other Republicans openly tease their own presidential candidates, making it clear they will not stand by Trump’s nomination.
Meanwhile, legal pressure on Trump is mounting. Attorney General Merrick Garland last week appointed a special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into classified documents recovered from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., as well as key aspects of a separate investigation into the January 6th involves , 2021, U.S. Capitol Uprising and efforts to reverse the 2020 election. And on Tuesday, after a three-year legal battle, the Supreme Court cleared the way for the upcoming submission of Trump’s tax returns to a congressional committee.
Still, Trump starts the race with an obvious lead. The former president had been behaving like a de facto candidate for months and had long had a political operation underway. After two presidential campaigns and four years in office, he also has longstanding relationships with state and local party leaders, including many who remain loyal to him.
Trump has since appeared at a number of private events. Last week, he hosted the America First Policy Institute’s two-day “Gala and Experience” in Mar-a-Lago, which included policy sessions, a Thursday night concert with country music star Lee Greenwood, a golf tournament and a Friday night black tie gala who made comments to Trump railing against the Garland Special Counsel’s decision.
Trump also made video appearances at a Conservative Political Action Conference in Mexico and answered questions via live video feed at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting in Las Vegas, where a long list of other potential 2020 hopefuls who showed up in person courted donors . Some argued it was time to walk away from Trump.
“As you know, our country is in big, big trouble — it’s in a big troubled neighborhood, I can tell you that,” Trump said.
Trump has also issued a number of memos, including from congressional allies such as Reps Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar, Ronny Jackson and Elise Stefanik, as well as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake.
And his campaign team, which has a long list of key leadership positions yet to fill, has been working to hire staff and build the essentials of a modern campaign organization, including integrating databases and donor lists and negotiating with vendors.
The launch marks a stark contrast to June 2015, when Trump kicked off his last successful campaign for the White House in Trump Tower with a speech that drew waves of media attention with its shocking statements and tongue-in-cheek proclamations.
“When Mexico sends its people, they don’t send their best,” Trump said at the time. “They bring drugs, they bring crime, they’re rapists, and some, I suppose, are good people.”
The next day, Trump traveled to Manchester, New Hampshire — eventually winning the state’s GOP primary — followed by rallies in Arizona, South Carolina and Iowa.
Trump’s approach also contrasts with many of his potential rivals, who have spent the past few months frequenting states with early elections and trying to raise their profile with media appearances.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, for example, has given more than 40 interviews while promoting his new book.
Dan Eberhart, a former Trump campaign donor who said he would like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to win the nomination, said last week “confirmed some things that we’ve suspected all along.” had”.
“We now know that many candidates plan to run for the nomination. At this point, no one seems willing to relinquish the nomination to Trump or DeSantis,” Eberhart said. “We also know that many people in the party are willing to walk away from Trump. For now, DeSantis is the heir apparent. We’ll have to see if he can hold that position, but I don’t see many possible candidates who could challenge him other than Trump himself.”