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Trump laying groundwork for another presidential run

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Washington, Feb 07: At a recent rally in Texas, Donald Trump talked about Hillary Clinton and how the 2020 election was allegedly stolen from him through voter fraud.

Trump laying groundwork for another presidential run

"The 2020 election was rigged and everyone knows it," Trump asserted, even though all such claims have been thoroughly disproved. The US Supreme Court, which is majority conservative thanks to judges put on the bench by Trump himself, has thrown out a lawsuit seeking to overturn election results in four battleground states.

If this rhetoric sounds familiar, it's because the messaging at Trump rallies today consists of bits and pieces he's been using since he first ran for president (such as the hatred against Hillary Clinton) and the voter fraud conspiracy he's been focused on since his 2020 loss.

"He is doing what he's always done: playing to his base and throwing them red meat," said Brandon Conradis, a campaign editor at the political news site The Hill and a former newswriter with DW. "It's the greatest hits, still."

Pardoning Capitol attackers

Trump also came out with a new hit single, if you will, during his rally in Conroe last weekend. The former president spoke out stronger than he ever had before in favor of the insurrectionists who stormed the US Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021.

"If I run and if I win," he said, referring to the 2024 presidential election, "we will treat those people from January 6 fairly. We will treat them fairly. And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons because they are being treated so unfairly."

"When Trump says provocative things like this, he above all craves the attention," Michael Cornfield, associate professor of political management at George Washington University, told DW.

The violent attack on the Capitol saw an angry mob disrupting the session of Congress about to formalize Joe Biden's election win. Five people died, more than 700 have since been charged. As a result of the attack, Trump was impeached during his last days in office after being charged with "incitement of insurrection."

Pushback from Republican leaders

In the days following the Conroe rally, numerous high-profile Republicans have spoken out against Trump's idea of pardoning those who stormed the Capitol. South Carolina senator and well-known Trump ally Lindsey Graham said he hoped the perpetrators would "go to jail and get the book thrown at them because they deserve it."

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu was also adamantly against the idea. "Of course not," Sununu told CNN when asked whether the Capitol rioters should be pardoned. "Oh my goodness. No."

But high-profile Republicans, observers say, aren't the target audience for Trump's contentious statements anyway.

"Trump doesn't care about" criticism from the high echelons of his party, Conradis said. "He is appealing to his base, and those who stormed the Capitol are definitely part of it. Those are the die-hard [supporters] who are going to vote for him no matter what."

Trump is a 'showman'

Keeping his supporters close will be crucial if Trump does decide to run again in the 2024 presidential election. Statements that begin with "If I run and if I win" certainly make it sound like another Trump candidacy is a likely scenario.

"Obviously anything could happen, but where things are right now, he definitely wants to run again and is laying the groundwork," Conradis said. "He doesn't want people to forget about him. He loves the spotlight, he is a showman and he wants the media coverage."

Cornfield is less sure. "He's an entertainer with an important political position and a political past. But his political future is very much up in the air," he said.

Either way ― should Trump decide to run again, things are looking good for the former president. In a poll first published by The Hill at the end of January, Trump garnered 57% of the vote in a hypothetical 8-candidate 2024 Republican primary, the first place by a wide margin. In second place with 12% is Florida governor Ron DeSantis.

Lots of money raised ― for legal defense?

Trump has also built up an impressive war chest. He raised $51 million in the second half of 2021 alone, bringing his total funds to $122 million, according to federal filings. Many of those dollars came from small-time donors, "normal Americans," as Conradis put it. "That in itself tells you how much support he still has."

Cornfield points out that Trump has only spent a fraction of this money on supporting candidates on the local and state level in the midterm elections coming up this November. Normally, the politics professor explains, someone looking to run for president would spend much more this way. But he believes Trump is saving the money for something else.

"He's knee-deep in lawsuits and it could get worse," Cornfield said.

And good legal defense is expensive.

'He could win again'

Of course, Trump might also hope that he won't have to face any judges at all if things go his way.

"Not to be too cynical, but one of his primary motivations for running again is that he will make the case that because he's a candidate for president, he's immune from prosecution," Cornfield said.

Whether that move would work is a different story. As of now, it's still not clear whether Trump will attempt to take back the White House. If he does, though, the Democrats would face a serious opponent.

"Trump is still the person elected in 2016," Conradis said. "That's why he could win again."

Source: DW

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