Former president Donald Trump at a rally in Ohio in November 2022
Washington (AFP) - Having launched a new bid for the White House, Donald Trump has not been met with the energy he had been hoping for.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
“In all, it has been a truly terrible launch of a presidential campaign,” said Lara Brown, political science professor at George Washington University, noting that the one-term former US president has stumbled through “one scandal after another.”
Having hoped to ride a Republican “red wave” in the midterm elections last month, Trump instead found himself high and dry after most of the noteworthy candidates he backed were defeated.
Spurned by conservative heavyweights, the former president once again found himself the target of intense criticism last month after dining with rapper Kanye West, who has been accused of anti-Semitism, and a white supremacist.
Many Republicans who had long been fearful of incurring their leader’s wrath now piled their scorn on the real estate mogul, calling the dinner “ridiculous,” “disgusting” and “scandalous.”
Their efforts to distance themselves from the former president accelerated further when Trump – who falsely claims he won the 2020 election – issued calls to abandon the US Constitution.
And the point was driven home yet again Tuesday, when one of Trump’s most famous protege candidates, former American football player Herschel Walker, lost a bid for a Senate seat in the state of Georgia.
“Trump has also had a number of high-profile donors publicly state that they are not interested in supporting his 2024 campaign,” Brown told AFP.
The billionaire, known for his inflammatory speeches to rallies of red-hatted supporters, has not held any campaign event outside his residence at the Mar-a-Lago golf club in Florida since declaring his candidacy in November.
And while the 76-year-old has always thrived on political controversy, he is now the subject of myriad criminal and civil investigations, from his handling of classified documents to his financial affairs in New York.
- Assault on the Capitol -
Trump’s real troubles are likely only just beginning.
For more than a year, the contentious Republican has been under investigation over allegations of exerting pressure on Georgia state officials during the 2020 presidential election, which could lead to an indictment.
And a Congressional committee investigating his responsibility for the attack by his supporters at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, is set to release a voluminous report in the coming weeks.
The panel has already indicated that it would recommend indictments, without specifying who could be targeted.
The decision of whether or not to charge the former president will ultimately rest with Attorney General Merrick Garland, who in mid-November appointed a special prosecutor to independently investigate Trump.
The courts have already found his family business guilty of tax evasion, a blow for the ex-businessman, although he himself has not been tried.
- Hard core -
But with the 2024 presidential election nearly two whole years away, Trump still has plenty of time to stage a comeback.
When he was abandoned by some in the conservative movement after the Capitol riot, the former leader managed within a few months to regain almost total control of the party.
Trump’s political demise has been predicted over and over again, but so far he has survived. The more scandals he accumulates, the less effect any individual incident seems to have on his power.
After taking office in November 2016 in an unprecedented political upheaval that almost no one predicted, Trump may also be tempted to play the position of rebel candidate if the defections in his ranks continue.
Polls show he is still a big favorite in a hypothetical Republican primary, a fact he likes to tout at every opportunity.
He can also still count on a steadfast base, which swears unfailing support to the former president and continues to flock to his rallies.
But even those loyalists could eventually lose patience, predicted Brown.
“While some in his base may rally to support him when he in the coming months claims to be a victim of a political witch hunt, for many, I imagine that act is getting old,” she said.