Trump campaigns in early-voting states, says he’s ‘more committed’ than ever
Former President Trump kicked off his 2024 White House bid with stops Saturday in early-voting states New Hampshire and South Carolina, his first campaign appearances since announcing his run more than two months ago.
“Together we will complete the unfinished business of making America great again,” Trump said at an evening event in Columbia to introduce his South Carolina leadership team.
Trump and his allies hope the events in states with great influence in selecting the nominee will offer him a show of force after a sluggish start to his campaign that left many ques- tioning his commitment.
“They said, ‘He’s not doing rallies, he’s not campaigning. Maybe he’s lost that step,’” Trump said at the New Hampshire GOP’s annual meeting in Salem. He added: “I’m more angry now, and I’m more committed now than I ever was.”
In South Carolina, he likewise dismissed the spec-ulation, saying, “We have huge rallies planned, bigger than ever before.”
While Trump has spent the months since he announced his run largely ensconced in his Palm Beach, Fla., estate residence and at his nearby golf course, his aides say they have been busy behind the scenes. His campaign opened a headquarters in Palm Beach and has been hiring staff. In recent weeks, backers have been reaching out to political operatives and elected officials to secure support for Trump as other Republicans are preparing candidacies.
In New Hampshire, Trump promoted his campaign agenda, including immigration and crime, and said his policies would be the opposite of those of President Biden. He cited Democrats’ move to change the election calendar, moving New Hampshire from its leadoff primary spot, and accused Bide of “disgracefully trashing this beloved political tradition.”
“I hope you’re going to remember that during the general election,” Trump told party members. He twice won the primary but lost New Hampshire each time to Democrats.
Later, in South Carolina, Trump said he planned to keep the state’s primary as the “first in the South.”
In his speech, he hurtled from criticism of Biden and Democrats to disparaging comments about transgender people, mockery of people promoting the use of electric stoves and electric cars, and reminiscing about efforts while president to increase oil production, strike trade deals and crack down on migration at the U.S-Mexico border.
While Trump remains the only declared 2024 presidential candidate, potential GOP rivals — including 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 — are expected to get campaigns underway in the coming months.
After his South Carolina speech, Trump told the Associated Press that it would be disloyal for DeSantis to oppose him in the primary.
“If he runs, that’s fine. I’m way up in the polls,” Trump said. “He’s going to have to do what he wants to do, but he may run. I do think it would be a great act of disloyalty because, you know, I got him in. He had no chance. His political life was over.”
In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and several members of the state’s congressional delegation attended Trump’s event at the State House.
Trump’s team has struggled to line up support from South Carolina lawmakers, even some who have eagerly backed him before. Some have said that it is too early to make endorsements or that they are waiting to see who else enters the race. Others have said it is time for the party to move past Trump to a new generation of leadership.
Republican lawmakers who’ve spread election falsehoods are overseeing legislative committees charged with setting election policy in two major battleground states.
Dave Wilson, president of the Christian nonprofit Palmetto Family Council, said some conservative voters may have concerns about Trump’s recent comments that Republicans who opposed abortion without exceptions had cost the party in the November elections.
“It gives pause to some folks within the conservative ranks of the Republican Party as to whether or not we need the process to work itself out,” said Wilson, whose group hosted Pence for a speech in 2021.
But Gerri McDaniel, who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign, rejected the idea that voters are ready to move on.
“Some of the media keep saying he’s losing his support. No, he’s not,” she said. “It’s only going to be greater than it was before, because there are so many people who are angry about what’s happening in Washington.”
The South Carolina event was in some ways off-brand for a onetime reality television star who favors big rallies and has tried to cultivate an outsider image.
Rallies are expensive, and Trump added financial challenges when he chose to begin his campaign in November — far earlier than many had urged. That leaves him subject to fundraising regulations and bars him from using his leadership political action committee to pay for such events, which can cost several million dollars.
Trump’s campaign, in its early stages, has already drawn controversy, particularly when he had dinner with Holocaust-denying white nationalist Nick Fuentes and the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who had made a series of antisemitic comments. Trump also was widely mocked for selling a series of digital trading cards that pictured him as a superhero, a cowboy and an astronaut.
He is the subject of a series of criminal investigations, including one into the discovery of hundreds of documents with classified markings at his Florida club and whether he obstructed justice by refusing to return them, as well as state and federal examinations of his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to Biden.
Trump remains the only announced 2024 candidate, and early polling shows he’s a favorite to win his party’s nomination.
“The gun is fired, and the campaign season has started,” said Stephen Stepanek, outgoing chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party. Trump announced that Stepanek will serve as senior advisor for his campaign in the state.
Get Group Therapy
Life is stressful. Our weekly mental wellness newsletter can help.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.