Trump kicks off White House campaign with events in New Hampshire, South Carolina According to Reuters
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Florence Regional Airport in Florence, South Carolina, U.S., March 12, 2022. REUTERS/Randall Hill/File Photo
By Gram Slattery and Ted Hesson
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (Reuters) – Former U.S. President Donald Trump joined the campaign for the first time on Saturday since announcing his bid to win the White House back in 2024, visiting two early voting states and dismissed criticism that his campaign ended to a slow start.
“I’m angrier now, and I’m more committed than ever,” Trump, a Republican, told a small crowd at the New Hampshire Republican Party annual meeting in Salem, before heading to Columbia. , South Carolina, to appear with his leadership team in the state.
New Hampshire and South Carolina were among the first four states to host presidential contests, giving them huge clout as candidates jockey for positions.
In contrast to the mass rallies in front of thousands of worshipers that Trump often organizes, Saturday’s events were relatively quiet. In Columbia, Trump spoke to about 200 attendees, with Governor Henry McMaster and US Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina walking alongside him.
Once an undisputed focus of the Republican Party, a growing number of elected officials have expressed concern about Trump’s ability to defeat Democratic President Joe Biden, should he decide to run for re-election as many would expect. .
Many Republicans are considering whether to launch their own White House campaigns, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who many see as the biggest threat for Trump.
Some of the top Republicans in both states Trump visited on Saturday – including New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley – are weighing presidential campaigns. Many senior Republicans in New Hampshire, where Trump’s 2016 victory confirmed his status as the top candidate, say they are looking for an alternative.
There were a number of conspicuous absences in South Carolina, including the state’s party chair, several US Republican representatives from the state, and South Carolina US Senator Tim Scott, who is believed to be the candidate. potential Republican president. Scott and others have cited scheduling conflicts.
Several Republican state legislators decided not to attend after failing to receive assurances from Trump’s team that doing so would not be considered an endorsement, according to a person familiar with the plan. .
Rob Godfrey, a political strategist at Columbia, said many Republicans are holding off on supporting Trump because there are many potential candidates who could run for the party’s nomination.
“I think there’s a fair amount of people who are keeping their cool because this year the Republicans have such a deep vote,” he said.
At both stops on Saturday, Trump repeated some of the themes that roiled his first campaign, including railings against illegal immigration and China.
But he also emphasized social issues like transgender rights and school curricula about race, perhaps in response to DeSantis, whose relentless focus on the culture wars helped build his country profile.
To be sure, Trump retains a sizable support base, especially among the grassroots. Although he lost in several polls head-to-head with DeSantis, he won by a significant margin when poll respondents were given more options.
Trump didn’t spend much time reiterating his familiar grievances over the 2020 election, though he did allude to his false claim that the election was stolen from him.
Since the start of his campaign in November, Trump has maintained a relatively low profile. He phoned many conservative Republicans in the US House of Representatives in early January to convince them to vote for Kevin McCarthy, an ally, for the new Speaker.
Most rejected his pleas, although McCarthy was elected to the position after a fierce battle.