Former US president Donald Trump has kicked off his 2024 White House bid with stops in New Hampshire and South Carolina, while brushing
aside criticism that his campaign was off to a slow start.
Speaking to party leaders at the New Hampshire Republicans’ annual meeting in Salem, the former president insisted he was motivated to win as he embarked on his third White House bid which he announced in November.
“We’re starting right here as a candidate for president,” he announced. “I’m more angry now, and I’m more committed now, than I ever was.”
In contrast to the raucous rallies in front of thousands of devotees that Mr Trump often holds, Saturday’s events were notably muted.
In Columbia, South Carolina, Mr Trump spoke to about 200 people in the state’s capitol building, with Governor Henry McMaster and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina flanking him.
Mr Trump’s sluggish start to his campaign has left some questioning his commitment to running again – but he dismissed the speculation by saying “we have huge rallies planned, bigger than ever before”.
Once the undisputed centre of gravity in the Republican Party, an increasing number of elected officials have expressed
concerns about Mr Trump’s ability to beat Democratic President Joe Biden.
Several Republicans are considering whether to launch their own White House bids, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, widely seen as the biggest threat to Mr Trump.
Top Republicans in both states that the former president visited – including New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley – are among those weighing bids of their own.
At both stops on Saturday, Mr Trump echoed some of the themes of his 2016 campaign, including sharply criticising illegal immigration at the US-Mexico border and China.
But he also emphasised social issues, perhaps in response to Mr DeSantis, whose relentless focus on culture wars has helped build his national profile.
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In Columbia, the former president said: “We’re going to stop the left-wing radical racists and perverts who are trying to indoctrinate our youth, and we’re going to get their Marxist hands off our children.
“We’re going to defeat the cult of gender ideology and reaffirm that God created two genders: men and women. We’re not going to allow men to play women’s sports.”
Mr Trump also made allusions to his claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him, calling the poll “ridiculous”.