COLUMBIA, S.C. – Donald Trump resumed public campaigning Saturday with renewed attacks on long-standing targets: President Joe Biden, the 2020 election, federal and state prosecutors, and a lengthening list of Republican opponents.
“So, we’re here and we start, we begin,” Trump told a group of Republicans in New Hampshire during a day of campaigning that also will take him to South Carolina; both states hold early primaries in the 2024 presidential election.
The trip came after more than two months of political turmoil for Trump following his mid-November announcement of a 2024 campaign. A rising number of Republicans say the former president cannot win next year and the party should look for another standard-bearer.
“We just want the best normal candidate,” New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu told NBC News in the days before Trump’s visit.
Among Trump’s themes on a renewed campaign:
In a rambling speech before the New Hampshire Republican Party that bounced from topic to topic, Trump berated Biden and other Democrats as “radical left people” who have pursued “colossal disasters.”
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Trump criticized the president over border security, military aid to Ukraine, election rules, drug trafficking, education, energy, military policy and son Hunter Biden’s business practices.
While bemoaning Biden’s presidency, the ex-president again made false claims about the administration of the 2020 election, despite a lack of proof about systematic voter fraud.
Biden and his allies say they aren’t worried about the prospect of running again against Trump, noting that they defeated him in 2020.
As some Republicans wonder if Trump will soon be campaigning while under criminal indictment, Trump has braced supporters by claiming that law enforcement officials are biased against him.
Prosecutors in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., are investigating Trump over efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden, activities that led to the attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, 2021. Yet another investigation involves Trump’s handling of classified material.
On that last item, Trump and allies have noted that Biden recently turned over classified documents improperly in his possession.
One difference between the cases: Trump has been accused of obstruction of justice over refusing to turn over documents to the National Archives. That refusal led to the highly publicized search of his Mar-a-Lago home in South Florida, another subject of Trump’s stump speech in New Hampshire.
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Target: Other Republicans
Prominent Republicans are considering runs against Trump, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Trump’s former vice president Mike Pence. Other potential Trump opponents reside in the states he was scheduled to visit Saturday: Former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and current New Hampshire Sununu.
Trump did not single out any potential challengers during his speech in New Hampshire, he did denigrate the Republican field as a whole. Noting that no other Republican challenged him in 2020, Trump said that “I don’t think we have competition this time either, to be honest.”
With primaries still a year away, polls are all over the place on Trump and his place in the Republican Party.
A few days before Trump’s trip to New Hampshire, a University of New Hampshire poll showed him trailing DeSantis by double digits, 42% to 30%.
Meanwhile, a New Hampshire Journal/Coefficient poll gave Trump a 37%-26% lead over the Florida governor. The same poll also said that, asked to pick between Trump and “someone else,” 43% went with the ex-president while 42% went with the alternative.
Two months of turmoil
The scheduled day-long trip to two early-primary states comes more than two months after Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign.
Those two months have also featured a bevy of political problems.
Dome Republicans blamed Trump for the party’s disappointing showing in the 2022 congressional elections, including a failure to win control of the U.S. Senate. Other Republicans cite the many criminal investigations hovering around the former president.
Trump also took heat over a November dinner he hosted featuring anti-Semitic rapper Ye and white nationalist Nick Fuentes.
Different kind of events
Trump has yet to schedule one of the mass political rallies that fueled his presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020.
On Saturday, he went for more traditional types of campaigning: A keynote address at the winter meeting of the New Hampshire Republican Party and a planned event at the statehouse in Columbia, S.C., to unveil his “South Carolina Leadership Team.
Discussing rallies during the New Hampshire event, Trump told supporters: “We’re going to do them soon.”
Story Credit: usatoday.com