Donald Trump has announced his third-straight presidential bid, in an extremely rare attempt by a former US leader to recapture the White House after losing an election.
The former president’s aides are saying this announcement – and this campaign – will look more like 2016 than 2020, according to reports. Stripped of the powers of office, Mr Trump will frame himself as an outsider, seeking to disrupt a political establishment on the left and right that views him with hostility.
In 2016, despite seemingly long odds, Mr Trump first beat his Republican rivals and then narrowly defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton, who was seeking to win a third consecutive White House term for her party.
It was an improbable achievement but one that showcased Mr Trump’s undeniable strengths as a candidate.
He has an unmatched sense of which issues are important to grass-roots conservatives. His unpredictable and inflammatory style can drive news coverage and deny the spotlight to his competitors. He has a base of loyal supporters and can motivate typically unengaged Americans to vote. And after four years in office, many of those supporters hold positions of authority within the Republican Party.
Running with a record
Eight years ago, Mr Trump was a political blank slate. With no record as an officeholder, voters could project their hopes and desires onto him. He could make expansive promises – so much winning! – without critics pointing to past shortcomings and failures.
That’s not the case anymore. While Mr Trump had some notable policy achievements during his four years in office, including tax cuts and criminal justice reform, he also had some prominent failures.
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Republicans will remember his inability to repeal Democratic healthcare reforms and his repeated promises of infrastructure investment that never came to fruition. And then there’s Mr Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which could open him up to attacks on multiple fronts.
Democrats have long criticised his response as insufficiently aggressive, but there are some on the right who believe he went too far in supporting government-mandated mitigation efforts.