“I’m really angry right now and I’m more determined than ever,” he said at the New Hampshire GOP annual meeting in Salem, N.H., on Saturday.
Then in Columbia, flanked by state leaders including Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, the former president said, “The 2024 election is one shot at saving our country and we need a leader who is ready to do it on day one.”
In his speeches, Mr. Trump made common policy proposals, including strengthening the southern border and getting tough on crime.
He drew loud applause when he mentioned the culture wars that have rocked the party, such as calling for a ban on women and transgender athletes in women’s sports. He said parents should have the right to elect school principals.
Mr Trump also called out President Biden over the discovery of classified documents in the garage of his Delaware home. Last year, federal agents obtained classified documents from Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, Florida.
The trip began two months ago as the first test of Mr. Trump’s campaign — earlier than some Republicans thought was wise — and has largely stayed out of the public eye since then. He drew criticism for the lack of events Saturday, in front of more than 400 people in a high school auditorium, teasing a return to his signature rallies.
He later drew a packed crowd to the South Carolina Statehouse. Mr. Trump then made a surprise visit to a nearby fried chicken restaurant, placing orders and posing for selfies with customers.
Saturday’s events show some national polls showing Mr Trump regaining some of the ground he has lost in recent months. State polls also showed the strength of rival Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The governor has not entered the race, but is widely expected to do so after the state legislature ends in May.
A University of New Hampshire poll released last week showed Mr. DeSantis with 42 percent of GOP primary voters, compared to 30 percent for Mr. Trump. A New Hampshire Journal/Coefficient poll showed the former president favoring the governor 37% to 26%. The South Carolina polls also showed a close fight between the two men.
Mr. Trump told The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets while traveling aboard a newly refurbished Boeing 757 that Mr. DeSantis was trying to “rewrite history” on Covid-19. Mr. DeSantis has gained a national profile for eschewing lockdown protocols and questioning the safety of vaccines. Mr DeSantis has lifted restrictions related to Covid. Florida lifted restrictions faster than many other states.
Mr Trump insisted he was leaving it up to the states to decide on Covid policy, saying: “He’s changed the tune a lot. A spokesman for Mr. DeSantis declined to comment.
Mr. Trump He said his endorsement of Mr. DeSantis ahead of the 2018 primary gave the incumbent governor a leg up in the race. The former president considers the challenge to be disloyal.
Mr Trump is back on the campaign trail as he prepares to rediscover Facebook, a powerful fundraising and messaging tool he has used in past elections, although it remains to be seen how he will use the platform this time around. His Facebook and Instagram accounts were suspended on January 6 due to the Capitol riots. He was recently invited on Twitter but he chose his true social platform and has yet to use it.
Many Republican leaders across the country have continued to urge Mr. Trump to step aside, citing controversies and legal troubles and disappointing results in recent polls, including losses in some key Senate and gubernatorial races by Trump-endorsed candidates in November. That sentiment was echoed this week at the Republican National Committee meeting in California, where Rona McDaniel was re-elected chairman in a race that featured a heated debate over the party’s direction.
Bill Palatucci, a longtime RNC member from New Jersey, said the party would like to see Mr. Trump passed and thinks that is in the works. But he added that as the 2024 presidential field takes shape, the party must retain the voters Mr. Trump has attracted and “persuade the previous president to be destructive rather than constructive.”
Mr. Palatucci, an ally of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, said: “The influence is fading, but it’s not clear if it’s fading fast,” suggesting that Mr. Christie might enter the race.
“I think a lot of us would like to see him run,” RNC member Carrie Almond of Missouri said of Mr. Trump. But we want to see who else is there.
“He has an incredibly loyal following,” said Rep. Russell Frye (R), who defeated the Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump last year in the wake of the Capitol riots, recalling Mr. Trump’s rally in his state last March that drew thousands of people despite bad weather. to be continued.
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Mr Trump, 76, is the only candidate but is expected to face competition in the coming weeks and months. Mr. DeSantis has been heavily featured in speculative matches and has attracted many party leaders and major donors who want to turn the page.
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu is another contender who has been critical of the former president. In the interview, Mr. Trump said he should not expect to carry the state as he did in the 2016 primary, where other hopefuls have already toured following his defeat in the Iowa caucuses.
“They’re coming to New Hampshire because they know the first primary in the country needs to be registered. You cannot take anything for granted,” said Mr. Sunu.
In South Carolina, he may face off against home-state candidates. Republican Senator Tim Scott is considering a possible presidential bid. So says former Gov. Nikki Haley, who says she’s close to making a decision. Neither attended Trump’s event at the State House, where about 500 people were invited. Mr. Trump said he had recently spoken with Ms. Haley. She said she would not challenge him if he ran again in April 2021.
Senator Lindsey Graham, who joined Mr. Trump at the State House, spoke of the party’s uncertain future. How many times have you heard “We like Trump’s policies, but we need someone new”? “He said. Without Donald Trump, there are no policies.”
– John McCormick contributed to this article.
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