Former President Trump is seeking to reclaim the political stage with a Tuesday evening event at his Mar-a-Lago resort that he first teased a week ago, before the midterm elections.
The expectation is that Trump will announce a 2024 campaign for the presidency — a quest that, if it succeeds, would make him the first president since Grover Cleveland to serve nonconsecutive terms.
Trump has floated the possibility of another White House bid more or less constantly since leaving office almost two years ago.
Now the moment is here, and several big questions are about to be answered
Will Trump actually declare his candidacy?
The biggest question is the most obvious — will Trump truly launch a 2024 bid?
Up until results started coming in from last week’s midterms, it sounded like a done deal.
But Trump had a miserable cycle. High-profile endorsees such as Mehmet Oz, Doug Mastriano, Blake Masters and Tudor Dixon all lost. Exit polls showed 58 percent of voters holding an unfavorable impression of Trump, far overtaking the 39 percent who view him favorably.
Trump had once hoped to take advantage of a tailwind of success from the midterms. Instead, the GOP is debating the extent to which he is an electoral millstone around the party’s neck.
Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears (R) told Fox News last week that Trump had “become a liability.” Longer-standing Trump critics within the GOP such as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have raised their own objections with new vigor.
Hogan told CNN on Sunday that 2022 represented “basically the third election in a row that Donald Trump has cost us the race.”
The suddenly chilly climate has reportedly led some Trump advisers to advocate for the postponement of a 2024 launch.
And there is a further complication: the Senate runoff in Georgia, set for Dec. 6, between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and former football star Herschel Walker (R), another Trump endorsee.
The political danger for Trump is that he announces a White House bid, the race in Georgia becomes a proxy judgement on him and his candidate loses.
For all that, it would be highly unusual if the braggadocious Trump backs down from an expected campaign launch.
Do any major networks carry the event live?
Trump still earns plenty of headlines, but, when it comes to rallies and other live events, he has struggled to get the kind of coverage he enjoyed during his presidency and, before that, over the course of his 2016 campaign.
Many cable networks faced criticism back then from liberal-leaning viewers who charged that TV producers had recklessly handed over chunks of airtime to Trump.
More recently, there have been questions about the newsworthiness of meandering Trump rally speeches that do little more than regurgitate his many falsehood-littered grievances.
An announcement of a presidential candidacy would obviously be newsworthy — and it can be expected that some of the further-right, smaller networks will cover it live.
But can Trump still seize the agenda as he used to?
Most networks were disinclined to discuss their coverage plans.
“CNN covers the news,” a CNN source told The Hill. “When a former president announces he is running for president again, it is news. We will cover the news, as appropriate, as we do every day.”
Does he attack other Republicans?
In one sense, Trump has already fired the starting pistol on a 2024 run.
He did so on the Saturday before Election Day when he called Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) “DeSanctimonious” at a Pennsylvania rally.
Since then, Trump has also attacked Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) as well as reprising his frequent attacks on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and firing back at internal critics such as Earle-Sears.
The attacks on DeSantis are the most noteworthy.
After his initial volley, Trump went on to describe DeSantis as an “average REPUBLICAN governor with great Public Relations.” In remarks published by The Wall Street Journal, Trump also threatened, “If he did run, I will tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering.”
To his supporters, the name-calling and shade-throwing are just the latest iteration of an approach that helped propel Trump to the White House in 2016, even as it appalled the media.
But Trump is no longer attacking from a position of strength.
DeSantis won reelection in Florida by almost 20 points last Tuesday, a remarkable result in a state that was recently considered a battleground.
And Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe last year in a state President Biden had carried comfortably in 2020.
For many Republicans, figures such as DeSantis and Youngkin represent a brand of conservative politics that should be aped rather than derided.
How defensive is he about the midterm results?
Trump has clearly been hurt by the outcome of the midterms.
That said, he has been written off numerous times before in his political career — dating back to his incendiary announcement speech in June 2015 — and has always come back.
One question for Tuesday night will be the extent to which Trump tries to change the narrative around the midterms.
The former president has already tried this on social media.
“While in certain ways yesterday’s election was somewhat disappointing, from my personal standpoint it was a very big victory — 219 WINS and 16 Losses in the General —Who has ever done better than that?” he asked Wednesday on Truth Social.
It is also possible that Trump simply tries to move past the midterms or asserts that Republican defeats were down to the weakness of individual candidates rather than any missteps of his own.
In an interview with NewsNation broadcast on Election Day, Trump told correspondent Markie Martin, “If they win, I should get all the credit, and if they lose, I should not be blamed at all.”
NewsNation and The Hill are both owned by Nexstar Media Group, Inc.
Are there any surprises?
More than seven years on from the launch of his first campaign, predicting Trump’s actions remains a fool’s errand.
There is, as always, the possibility of the former president throwing a curveball.
But, so far, it looks like he is closing in on a campaign launch.
“Hopefully, tomorrow will turn out to be one of the most important days in the history of our Country!” he wrote on Truth Social on Monday.