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Trump announces 2024 presidential campaign in a bid to seize early momentum

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he attends a rally in Warren, Michigan, October 1, 2022.

Dieu-Nalio Chery | Reuters

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump announced Tuesday night that he was running for president in 2024.

“I am tonight announcing my candidacy for president of the United States,” Trump said in a speech at his Florida private club.

He also filed papers with the Federal Election Commission Tuesday night in which he declared himself a candidate for the presidency and established a new campaign committee.

By launching his campaign now, just a week after Republicans lost key midterm races, Trump was rejecting the counsel of current and former advisers who had cautioned him against declaring himself a candidate for president so soon after a defeat for his party.

Trump’s filing with the F.E.C. created the Donald J. Trump for President 2024, and officially launched the 2024 Republican presidential primary, a contest where the dynamics have shifted dramatically in the past week.

Before last Tuesday, Trump was the undisputed frontrunner in his party’s nominating contest, with polls showing the former president’s support among Republican voters averaging more than 20 percentage points over his closest rival, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.

But that was before DeSantis won reelection by an extraordinary 19-point margin, electrifying Republicans nationwide and offering the party a bright spot on a day when Democrats won most of the major Senate and governors’ races.

Now some of the early, post-election polling by YouGov shows DeSantis taking a lead over Trump.

The Florida governor has reportedly met with donors and started assembling his own presidential campaign to challenge Trump for the GOP nomination.

“I have only begun to fight,” DeSantis promised supporters in his reelection victory speech.

Now that Trump is officially Biden’s political opponent in the 2024 election, Attorney General Merrick Garland will need to decide whether to appoint a special counsel to take over the daily management of the Trump investigations. This could help to create even more distance between Biden appointees like Garland in the upper echelons of the Justice Department and any potential decisions about whether to charge Trump with a crime.

The appointment of a special counsel has reportedly been discussed within DOJ already, but no decisions have been made.

The White House is keen to avoid any suggestion that the investigation and potential prosecution of the president’s chief rival is politically motivated, or that it is designed in any way to damage Trump’s 2024 election prospects.

The New York and Georgia state investigations into Trump will likely proceed unimpeded, however, regardless of Trump’s candidate status.

Should Trump win the Republican nomination, he will likely face President Joe Biden in a rematch of the 2020 presidential contest. Biden has yet to formally launch his reelection campaign, but plans for a campaign have reportedly solidified in recent weeks.

The prospect of a long primary between Trump and DeSantis would be great news for Democratic campaign strategists, who see DeSantis as a formidable challenger.

Biden likes the idea, too. When a reporter asked him on Nov. 9 about Trump and DeSantis, the president said, “It’ll be fun watching them take on each other.”

Trump is still the undisputed leader of the Republican party, however. This week, the Washington Post reported that Trump plans to build a campaign team that looks and feels more like the skeleton crew of loyal aides who ran his successful 2016 run, and less like the massive operation that his failed 2020 reelection bid grew into.

Trump enters the race with more than $60 million in cash held by his leadership PAC, Save America, and a prodigious fundraising operation that vacuums up small-dollar donations at an unprecedented rate.

Federal Election Commission rules prohibit Trump from using the leadership PAC money to directly finance his presidential campaign.

CNBC Politics

Read more of CNBC’s politics coverage:

But in mid-October, Trump transferred $20 million from the leadership PAC to a newly created Super PAC called Make America Great Again Inc. At the time, Trump’s team claimed the MAGA Inc. money would be spent to support midterm candidates, not to help Trump.

But campaign finance watchdogs raised alarms that the lion’s share of the money could eventually find its way from MAGA Inc to Trump’s presidential bid, effectively circumventing rules that prohibited Save America, but not MAGA Inc, from spending money on Trump’s run for president.

As for a campaign message, Trump has previewed his 2024 stump speech during a series of rallies this summer and fall, and in some ways it mirrors his 2016 campaign pitch.

Trump’s vehement insistence that he won the 2020 presidential election, which he lost, is also a central part of his 2024 political persona, and his frequent arena rallies are filled with tirades against what he falsely claims was voter fraud in the last presidential election.

Another question is how Trump’s mounting legal problems will influence him personally and politically. His family real estate and hotel empire is facing a sweeping fraud lawsuit in New York state that could permanently cripple its operations and slash his personal wealth.

Trump is also facing a probe in Georgia of his attempts to overturn the 2020 election results in the state.

On the federal level, Trump is the subject of an FBI investigation into whether he mishandled state secrets by removing thousands of government documents from the White House in the final days of his presidency, more than 100 of which were classified.

The Justice Department is also investigating Trump’s role in a massive effort to overturn the 2020 election and prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory.

Following his loss in November, Trump spent weeks desperately trying to devise ways to hold on to power. His efforts culminated in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, a deadly mob attack for which more than 900 people have so far faces federal charges.

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