Donald Trump’s false start

Donald Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign over three months ago. The lackluster announcement kick-off event was held at his Mar-a-Lago beach club in front of a small crowd of people, many of whom were reportedly trying to get out of the room halfway through his speech, but security refused to allow it. Some of his most loyal insiders didn’t attend at all, notably, including offspring Don Jr. and Ivanka while the networks, including Fox News, cut away part way through his rambling “low-energy” spiel. Everyone agreed that this announcement didn’t come close to the bedazzled golden escalator pageant of 2016.

So was that the best the great political impresario could do these days?

At the very least it seemed quite clear that he was out of practice. The two years he’d spent ruminating over the Big Lie and attempting to play kingmaker from afar had left him rusty. People were blaming the defeat of the midterms on his endorsements of election denier MAGA candidates and the whispers of “loser, loser, loser” were getting louder. It almost seemed as if he was … depressed, something I don’t think anyone has seen before.

I had assumed that in order to get his energy up he would jump right into his patented rallies. He’d done a few during the midterm campaign for his endorsees but they seemed a bit desultory as well. He never does well when he’s forced to talk up someone other than himself. But he hasn’t done any since his announcement. Instead, he’s been holding smaller events in early states like New Hampshire and South Carolina and appearing as he did this past week at the site of the toxic train derailment in Ohio. It’s almost as if he’s running a regular old presidential campaign. Is Donald Trump actually doing something different this time?

For quite a while he’s been putting out videos announcing his various policies for an agenda that Niall Stanage of the Hill reported he cleverly plans to call “Agenda47” since yes, he would be both the 45th president and the 47th if he were to win another term. These videos are typical Trumpian bombast, not unlike the announcements he would make in the 2016 campaign when he would call a press conference to announce, for instance, that he was calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until we can figure out what the hell is going on.”

Here’s an excerpt of one in which he’s discussing education policy, evidently intent upon one-upping Florida Governor Ron DeSantis:

 That’s reminiscent of Trump’s famous Central Park Five full page ad in which he called for the death penalty and more policing in the wake of the arrest of five young men who later turned out to be innocent. He’s made it clear that one of his top issues is going to be crime and punishment with calls for an expansion of the death penalty to include drug dealers and the use of the federal government in all manner of issues that are actually under state and local jurisdiction.

He’s also put out videos promising radical energy and immigration policies and has taken up the hot new cause of banning “ESG” investing which stands for investing which takes into account environmental, social and governance concerns. None of them are what you would call a real agenda or a plan. They are more like threats. But it’s interesting that he’s doing it at all. He’s rolling out an agenda in a formal format and putting the videos on his website and his social media platform Truth Social. It remains to be seen if he’s going to start using Facebook and Twitter again now that his ban has been lifted but unless he does, these pronouncements aren’t going to get wide circulation. You have to wonder why they haven’t done that yet.

His forays to New Hampshire and South Carolina couldn’t have been more conventional. He gave speeches to smaller crowds and hob-nobbed with local endorsers. And last week’s trip to Palestine Ohio was downright homespun which is not Trump’s usual style at all. He has always thought these personal interactions with the voters were beneath him. Recall what he said in the 2016 campaign:

Don’t forget that when I ran in the primaries, when I was in the primaries, everyone said you can’t do that in New Hampshire, you can’t do that. You have to go and meet little groups, you have to see — cause I did big rallies, 3-4-5K people would come . . . and they said, “Wait a minute, Trump can never make it, because that’s not the way you deal with New Hampshire, you have to go to people’s living rooms, have dinner, have tea, have a good time.”

I think if they ever saw me sitting in their living room they’d lose total respect for me. They’d say, I’ve got Trump in my living room, this is weird.

That’s vintage Trump. He truly believes that people wouldn’t respect him if he was a regular guy, even though he loves a Big Mac and fries just like they do. But in Ohio last week, while Trump didn’t appear in anyone’s living room he did do the next best thing. He went to Mcdonald’s.

That’s Trump’s way of saying that he’s one of them. Trump Jr. went out of his way to claim that, “no one probably eats more of it, per capita, than Donald Trump and it was nice seeing his father “just sitting there at McDonald’s. It was DJT at his best.” Trump Jr’s fiance Kimberley Guilfoyle weighed in on the former president’s “authentic” eating habits as well, rattling off everything he likes to eat at Mcdonald’s including “of course, the fries.”

But there was no more ecstatic supporter than Fox News celebrity Tucker Carlson:

“It’s real,” says Carlson. Sure it is. Trump often pops by the local Mcdonald’s and orders himself and you know he always buys a round of cheeseburgers for the house.

According to the Hill, many of his advisers and allies are thrilled that he’s being more low-key and running a more conventional campaign (at least by Trump standards). He spoke behind a lectern and used some big words when he spoke about the train derailment which I guess shows that he’s evolved.

So, does all this mean that Trump has finally smoothed out all his rough edges and is going to run a regular, run-of-the-mill campaign against Ron DeSantis and the gang? Not bloody likely. He posted a “Viewership Report” on Truth Social allegedly proving that 178 million people watched his little Ohio visit, which is so absurd it’s got to be a joke. He’s obviously dying to get back to his big rallies so I wouldn’t count on many more of these more intimate settings. They’re just too small for that colossal ego.


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