Donald Trump, who has mounted relentless attacks on the integrity of U.S. voting since his 2020 election defeat, on Tuesday launched a bid to regain the presidency in 2024, aiming to pre-empt potential Republican rivals.
Seeking a potential rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden, Trump made his announcement at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida a week after midterm elections in which Republicans failed to win as many seats in Congress as they had hoped.
In a speech lasting little more than an hour, Trump spoke to hundreds of supporters in a ballroom decorated with chandeliers and lined with American flags.
"In order to make America great again, I am tonight announcing my candidacy for president of the United States," Trump said to the phone-waving crowd, which included family members, donors and former staffers.
Trump steered clear of the name-calling that has marked other public appearances, opting instead for a critique of Biden's presidency and a review of what Trump said were the policy achievements of his own time in office.
"Two years ago we were a great nation and soon we will be a great nation again," he said.
Trump laid out familiar dark themes from his playbook, denouncing migrants - "We're being poisoned" - and portraying American cities as crime-ridden "cesspools of blood."
He said he would push for the death penalty for drug dealers and rehire members of the military who had been dismissed for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Although he assailed the U.S. election process, Trump did not use his speech to revive his false claims of massive voter fraud in 2020 and did not mention the violent attempt by his supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, to prevent Congress from certifying Biden's victory.
On a trip to Indonesia, Biden said "not really" when asked if he had a reaction to Trump's announcement. On Twitter, he posted a video criticizing Trump's record in office.
LONG ROADThere is a long road ahead before the Republican nominee is formally selected in the summer of 2024, with the first state-level contests more than a year away.
Trump's announcement comes earlier than usual even in a country known for protracted presidential campaigns, and signals his interest in discouraging other possible contenders such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis or his own former vice president, Mike Pence, from making a bid for the Republican Party's nomination.
DeSantis handily won re-election as governor last week. Pence has sought to distance himself from Trump while promoting a new book. Other potential Republican presidential hopefuls include Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.