As Donald Trump tries to launch his spluttering White House bid off, he has declared himself “more angry” than ever. On Saturday Trump swung through New Hampshire, which holds the first-in-the-nation Republican primary, and was due to head to South Carolina, looking to shake off criticism about the tame campaign that he seems to have started and the widespread talk about “Trump fatigue” among voters.
“We need a president who’s ready to hit the ground running on day one and boy, am I hitting the ground,” he told the New Hampshire state Republican party’s annual meeting. “They [the media] said, ‘He’s not doing rallies! He’s not campaigning! Maybe he’s lost that step.’ I’m more angry now and I’m more committed now than I ever was.” The remark elicited applause and cheers from the audience.
Trump formally launched his run for the White House more than two months ago with an address at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida that was widely mocked for its absence of sparkle or swagger; in Trump-speak, it was a “low-energy” performance.
On Saturday, the former President found himself speaking from a rudimentary wooden lectern at a high school auditorium in Salem–a far cry from the huge arenas that he typically brags about dominating. Later he was due to introduce his South Carolina campaign leadership team at the state capitol in Columbia, an unusual choice for a man who first ran for office as anti-establishment outsider pledging to drain the swamp.
These small events at local venues mark a strong contrast with the boisterous rallies that have become synonymous with the Trump bluster. Pundits are suggesting this may be an effort to show Republicans that he can be a more disciplined and conventional politician when he chooses, but equally, this may be an uphill climb after four years of undisciplined chaos and unconsidered tweets in the White House—many clearly fired off in the heat of the moment—that culminated in the deadly January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol.
But some things about Trump don’t change. He entered the New Hampshire event to the sound of singer Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” and began with his customary dubious claim that there were thousands of people outside the packed venue. He quickly mocked Democrats with nicknames such as “Crazy” Nancy Pelosi and “Cryin’” Chuck Schumer. These are some of the very things that political analysts believe have lead to “Trump fatigue” yet he persists.
Despite the advice of many Republicans to move on from his “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from him, he still could not resist an early swipe. “As someone who’s won the New Hampshire presidential primary not once but twice, and by the way, I believe we also won two general elections, OK, if you want to know the truth, and I believe it very strongly in plenty of other places also.”
Ending with his usual braggadocio and discounting the poll that shows De Santis to be hot on his heels, Trump bragged that, “We are so far ahead in the polls … We’re gonna win and we’re gonna win very big.”
Others are not so sure. Frank Luntz, a pollster who has advised numerous Republican campaigns, takes the opposite view and believes that Trump is all washed up.
“How much Trump has fallen is a big deal and how much DeSantis has gained is a big deal,” Luntz said. “DeSantis is so far ahead of where Barack Obama was against Hillary Clinton [in the Democratic primary in 2007] because that’s the closest parallel.”
He predicts that DeSantis will be the Republican nominee in 2024. “I used to think that Trump was the prohibitive favorite but, now that he’s below 50% and the first vote is still a year away, he’s bleeding support.
“I talk to Trump people. We did a focus group on him a few weeks ago. They all still appreciate all that he did. They still think he was one of the greatest presidents in American history. But there’s too much drama and too much controversy and they’ve had enough. The conclusion from them is: Mr Trump, thank you for your service, this country is grateful, but it’s time to move on.”