Donald Trump hits the trail in New Hampshire and South Carolina as he seeks to rejuvenate the 2024 campaign
Former President Donald Trump said on Saturday he was “more determined” than ever to win back the White House as he embarked on the campaign trail for the first time since announcing a third presidential bid in November.
Appearing in New Hampshire ahead of a second stop in South Carolina, Trump said he was ‘angrier’ about the direction of the country and vowed to return to the nation’s first primary state ‘many times over. as he looks to replicate his first-place finish in the Granite State in 2016.
“This is it,” Trump told New Hampshire GOP members at their annual meeting in Salem. “We start here as a presidential candidate.”
On the way to South Carolina, Trump told reporters aboard his plane that Nikki Haley – the state’s former governor who served as his ambassador to the United Nations – called him in recent days for the inform that she was planning to launch a presidential candidacy in 2024.
“I talked to him for a little while, I said, ‘Look, you know, go with your heart’s content if you want to race,'” Trump said. “She said publicly that ‘I would never run against my president, he was a great president’.”
Trump said he told Haley she “should do it.”
Haley, who recently moved her top aides to Charleston, is understood to be weighing when to launch a campaign at this point, not wanting to be the first to confront Trump on her own. In 2021, she said she would not challenge Trump if he ran for the White House again in 2024.
CNN has reached out to Haley for comment.
Earlier Saturday, Trump’s campaign sent out a fundraising email stating that “no other candidate is working this early to win every last vote”, and boasting of being “the number one Republican nominee for the President to campaign in the first two primary states”.
In New Hampshire, Trump announced that incumbent GOP Chairman Stephen Stepanek would be added to his campaign as a senior adviser.
Stepanek co-chaired Trump’s first presidential campaign before becoming the top GOP official in New Hampshire, serving two terms. He joins Trump’s team as the three-time presidential candidate faces waning support among state officials seeking a new face to top their party’s ticket.
In his remarks in Salem, Trump defended his months-long hiatus from the track, decrying media coverage that has raised questions about his campaign’s slow start with him remaining in Florida since launching his candidacy in November. He insisted his 2024 campaign was not playing “preemptive defense”, referring to a strategy used in American football by a team leading late in the game.
“They said, ‘He doesn’t do rallies, maybe he lost that stage. I’m angrier now and I’m more engaged now than I’ve ever been,” Trump said.
In New Hampshire, Trump also touted his new proposal to eliminate federal funding for schools that “push critical race theory or left-wing gender ideology” and have school principals elected by parents, a plan he called “the ultimate form of local control. .”
Meanwhile, a who’s who of campaign aides and allies were expected to be on hand for the second leg of Trump’s campaign on Saturday in Columbia, South Carolina, including senior advisers Brian Jack and Chris LaCivita and l former White House social media director Dan Scavino.
With its podium stationed under the Statehouse rotunda and flanked by American flags, the event had all the trappings of a presidential event. He was deliberately chosen to appear like this by Team Trump, who hope to capitalize on their candidate’s unique position as a former president, particularly as he prepares to attract challengers in the coming weeks – including including, maybe, Haley.
Directly across from Trump’s announcement was the chamber of the South Carolina House, whose Republican members approached the former president’s 2024 campaign with a mixture of joy and apprehension.
While some eagerly embraced his candidacy, others told CNN ahead of Saturday’s event that they were waiting to see how the GOP’s main field takes shape, especially if Haley and Sen. Tim Scott — two natives of South Carolina who are exploring their own White House races — deciding to take on the former president.
Trump won the South Carolina primary by 10 points in 2016, a feat he hopes to achieve again this cycle. Yet Trump’s potential main rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, is already scrambling to cultivate his own allies in the state, according to a person familiar with the outreach.
“He’s got a very tight-knit group already established, and they’re making calls to talk to him,” the person said.
Trump continues to be investigated by the Justice Department, and Special Counsel Jack Smith is overseeing criminal investigations into the retention of classified documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and some parts of the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol. . Both investigations implicate Trump’s conduct.
Trump’s campaign events on Saturday come in the wake of recent revelations that classified documents were also found in locations linked to both Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence. Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a separate special counsel to take over the investigation into classified Obama-era documents found at Biden’s home and former private office.
Earlier this week, Facebook’s parent company Meta said it would restore Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks, just over two years after suspending him following the January 6 attack.
This story and title have been updated.