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COLOMBIA, SC - Donald J. Trump campaigned in utterly sassy style during his first presidential election, giving kids free helicopter rides at the Iowa State Fair and using his Trump-branded 757 jet as a backdrop for the event.
He launched a second campaign in equally unusual fashion, filing re-election papers the same day he took office and holding 10 mega-signing rallies before the end of his first year in office.
For his third campaign, he's going back to basics for the first time.
More than two months after officially opening his candidacy for the White House, the 76-year-old former president held his first two public events on Saturday. Both were the kind of textbook campaign stops he nearly skipped over in his first two runs for office.
In New Hampshire, Trump was speaking in a Salem high school auditorium, where he was addressing an annual party-state meeting. In South Carolina, where he has previously drawn thousands of people to rallies, Trump was scheduled to unveil his state leadership team at the state Capitol, an extraordinary venue for a politician known for attacking the establishment and attacking longstanding public institutions directly. Data.
After attacking President Biden and other Democratic leaders, Trump said in Salem, "They said, 'He's not campaigning. Maybe you missed a step. I'm angrier and more engaged now than ever before."
Trump's attempt to dress in traditional campaign garb is a tacit admission that he is entering the race in one of the most politically vulnerable positions in his public life. He remains the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president, but his strength of support seems increasingly in doubt.
Longtime donors have been reluctant to recommit. Republican National Committee leaders openly encourage other candidates to run. Voters rejected handpicked candidates who promised to gain Republican control of the Senate but whose defeats left the House in Democrat hands.
"There's no doubt that former President Trump has lost some people, independents, some people in his base, so he has to come out slowly," said Jim Renacci, a former Ohio congressman and Trump acolyte. "He has to work to get her back."
Renacci provided one of Trump's first endorsements during the 2016 campaign. But he said he's waiting to see how the rest of the Republican field shapes up before deciding who to endorse for the 2024 nomination.
Since announcing his campaign in November, Trump has spent much of the past two months out of public view. He has spoken at private events, worked behind the scenes to help House Speaker Kevin McCarthy achieve his leadership position, and maintained an aggressive program on the golf course. And he's busy doing something, which is another sign he's eager to adopt a new tactic: policy videos.
Over the past six weeks, Mr. Trump posted social videos about him on his Truth social media platformpolitical positions, including plans to protect Social Security and Medicare and prohibit Chinese citizens from owning farmland or telecommunications, energy, technology or medical services in the United States. The videos, in which the former president speaks directly to the camera, should ensure supporters he is focused on issues other than his 2020 defeat, an issue that failed midterm voters.
Still, old habits die hard. Three minutes into his Salem speech, the year-old president said, "I also think we won two general elections, if you want to know the truth."
Politics US United States
From government buildings to the election campaign, here's a look at America's political landscape.
- Presidential run:Interviews with members of the Republican National Committeesignal the desire for an alternative candidate to former President Donald J. TrumpGet out of a competitive elementary school.
- Start campaign:Representative Adam B. Schiff, who presided over the first impeachment trial against Mr. Trump,announced that he would run for the Senate seatfor a long time by Dianne Feinstein.
- The most unusual race of 2023:Choosing a swing-inWisconsin Supreme Courtis carrying higher political stakes than any other competition in the United States this year.
- Anti-Transgender Push:The Republican legislature is pushing harderanti-transgender lawslike never before, including a ban on transitional care for young people up to age 26.
One of the biggest pain points for him was getting higher support from the dollar. Trump relies heavily on small online donations, but he has lost support from some wealthy donors and has struggled to secure pledges from others.
In recent weeks, two longtime Republican financiers, Bernie Marcus, founder of Home Depot, and Miriam Adelson, physician, philanthropist and widow of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, have not pledged to increase their previous financial support for their campaigns. people who insisted on anonymity to have private conversations.
A spokesman for Adelson said she plans to suspend the Republican primary.
However, Trump maintains his position as the most powerful Republican. An Emerson Collegesurvey ResearchThis week, in a hypothetical showdown, Trump showed the support of 55% of primary voters, nearly double that of his closest competitor, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida. The same poll showed Trump was in a statistical tie with Biden in a potential rematch next year.
"The campaign is well under way and continues to build an operation unlike any other," Steven Cheung, a Trump campaign spokesman, said in a statement. "President Trump's clear leadership in poll after poll shows that there is no other candidate who can remotely match the enthusiasm and excitement of his return to the White House."
In November and December, Trump is among the Republicansdrowned in opinion pollsafter his failure to deliver the "red wave", he promised voters in the midterm elections and after a dinner with Kanye West, who was denounced for anti-Semitic remarks, and Nick Fuentes, an outspoken and prominent anti-Semite young white supremacist.
Trump was taken aback by the criticism over the dinner, particularly from close aides, according to people familiar with the talks.
The biggest risk facing the Trump campaign may be less political than legal: Five criminal and civil investigations into his behavior before his 2016 appointment and his efforts to secure the peaceful transfer of power after his defeat in November 2020 have thwarted .
But Trump also needs to assure Republicans that he can win voters for the general election.
Republicans have gone through three disappointing election cycles with Trump as the face of the party, a situation the party is unwilling to face or even fully investigate.
The faltering support of some of the nation's evangelical leaders, whose parishioners were instrumental in supporting Trump's rise to the White House, hasaddressed the possibilitya tectonic shift in republican politics.
Many members of the Republican National Committee were activists who shaped the party's direction, including many who won seats during the Trump administration.I don't want to supportthe third candidacy of the former president. Interviews with 59 of the 168 RNC members revealed that dozens said Trump should not be the party's nominee, favored a large field or refused to express their position on the former president. Only four of those 59 offered their third unrestricted campaign.
And on Saturday, in South Carolina, Trump's leadership team would be without two of the state's most prominent politicians: former governor Nikki Haley and Senator Tim Scott.
Haley, who served in the Trump administration as an ambassador to the United Nations, is weighing up her own Republican presidential campaign.
Scott, the keynote speaker at Trump's recent presidential nominating convention, urged allies in the state not to support the former president while he is also considering a possible national campaign, according to two Republicans familiar with the talks.
Jane Brady, a member of the Delaware Republican National Committee, said Trump's combative nature has been a distraction from his policies, which have broad support from much of the party.
"Some people look beyond that, some don't," he said.
Alex Olson, a Republican strategist, was in Salem, N.H., on behalf of Ron to the Rescue, a new super PAC pushing Mr. DeSantis to make a bid through 2024. (The governor and the group are not affiliated.) .
"We have no problem with what Trump has done as president," Olson said. "I supported it. But DeSantis can bring together the Chamber of Commerce Republicans and the MAGA Republicans. He's less bombastic and he understands the legislative process."
Roland Morasse, 71, of Salem, who came to see Trump speak but was upset to find the event was not for the public: "Shame on you!" he said, adding that "it was only for the elites," he said, noting that he has no problem with Mr. DeSantis, but still prefers the former president. "DeSantis would be a good candidate for vice president," he said.
Renacci gave several reasons why he was unwilling to support Trump's presidential candidacy. The former lawmaker said the party needed "an overhaul" and also acknowledged that he was upset that Trump had not done more to support his 2022 primary campaign against Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.
"Former President Trump was a great candidate to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016," Renacci said. "But at this point in the game, we need to look at who the candidates are and see if there's someone who not only takes us in a new direction, but also doesn't divide the American people in the process."
Michael C. Bender reported from Columbia, S.C. and Mei-Ling McNamara of Salem, N.H. Reid J. Epstein contributed reports from Washington and Maggie Haberman from New York.
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