By JILL COLVIN, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) – Donald Trump was calling another friendly radio show when asked, as he often does, if he is planning a return offer for the White House. “We need you,” Conservative commentator Dan Bongino told the former president.
“Well, I’ll tell you what,” Trump replied. “We are going to make you very happy and we are going to do what is right.”
It was a typical non-binding response from a former president who spent decades playing around with presidential candidacies. But several people who have spoken with Trump and his team in recent weeks have said such remarks should not be seen as unnecessary gossip.
Instead, they sense a shift, with Trump acting and speaking more and more as if he plans to ride a race as he embarks on a more public phase of his post-presidency, starting with a speech on Saturday. in North Carolina.
Interest in another race, at least for now, comes from the fact that Trump was consumed by efforts to overturn last year’s election, advancing baseless lies that he was robbed and obsessed with recounts and audits which he said could reverse the results, although many recounts have validated his loss. He also faces the most serious legal threat of his career.
New York prosecutors have called a special grand jury to review the evidence in their criminal investigation into his business dealings – seen by many as a sign that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is getting ready to file a complaint during the large-scale two-year investigation. this included careful scrutiny of secret cash payments, property appraisals, and employee compensation.
Trump called the investigation “purely political,” and those around him insist he is not worried about possible legal exposure, even though they suggest his political stance is shifting.
“I have definitely noticed a change where there is more intention to lean towards what is going to happen than there will be,” said Matt Schlapp, president of the American Conservative Union, who is close to the former president. “I think that’s a very real possibility.”
Trump would face formidable headwinds on top of his legal vulnerabilities. He would run with the legacy of being the only US president to be impeached twice. A campaign would almost certainly rekindle memories of the deadly insurgency he helped spark on the United States Capitol earlier this year, potentially dragging down other Republicans who sought to overcome the violence.
Beyond that, Trump would be 78 on nomination day in 2025 – the same age as Democrat Joe Biden on his own nomination day this year – and several Republicans are already making moves for their own races. . Former Trump vice president Mike Pence is scheduled to visit New Hampshire state early on Thursday.
Trump has long held up the prospect of presidential campaigns to gain media attention and stay in the conversation.
And many had initially dismissed Trump’s speech on Another Race as a tool to maintain relevance and his status as the GOP kingmaker. But there are tentative signs that he plans to pursue more substantively to test his political strength, including holding rallies this summer. His team is considering events in Ohio, Florida, Alabama and Georgia to support midterm candidates and energize voters.
Allies say Trump is missing the office and is eager to return to action – especially as he sees other potential candidates making moves. He also felt emboldened by some recent developments, including the ousting of one of his main critics, Republican Representative Liz Cheney, from his leadership position in the House. And some see the presidency as a potentially useful legal shelter as investigations into him and his family business intensify.
“There is continued and enduring interest and people are encouraging him to show up in 2024, but he’s in no rush to make a decision.
And he will do it at the appropriate time, ”Trump spokesman Jason Miller said.
There are, however, doubts among some in Trump’s orbit that he will move forward unless he sees a clear path to victory, for fear of being marred by yet another loss.
For now, Trump remains obsessed with the 2020 election. A longtime ally said one of the reasons Trump didn’t say he was running was because he refused to acknowledge that the elections were over. The person said he is now going one step further by giving credence to a bizarre conspiracy theory that he might somehow be reinstated as president in August.
There is no constitutional or legal mechanism for Trump to return to the presidency without winning another election in 2024. Trump’s argument that the last election was tainted has been flatly rejected by federal and state officials, including included his own attorney general and Republican election leaders. Judges, including those appointed by Trump, also dismissed his claims.
The person who described his thinking, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
As Trump advances such baseless conspiracy theories, Republican state lawmakers are pushing what experts say are an unprecedented number of bills to restrict access to the ballot box that could affect future elections. While Republicans say the goal is to prevent voter fraud, Democrats argue the measures are aimed at undermining minority voting rights.
Trump remains a leading force in the Republican Party, despite his defeat. A recent national poll from Quinnipiac University found that 66% of Republicans would like to see him run for reelection, although the same number of Americans overall said they would rather he did not. – and there is no evidence that he has become more popular since losing by more than 7 million votes last November.
Supporters of the early-voting states expect another run from Trump, though a long list of other potential candidates, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, have done so. visits.
“He’s definitely setting the stage, keeping his powder dry for a run,” said Josh Whitehouse, a former member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives who has worked for the campaign and the Trump administration, of the former president.
“I would expect nothing less, knowing who he is and having worked for him for so long.”
While voters will certainly hear from other candidates, he said that ultimately support will rally around Trump if he decides to run.
“The energy is always there,” Whitehouse said. “You cannot reproduce it.”