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Donald Trump’s 2024 Campaign Is Anything but “Normal”

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Donald J. Trump is back on the campaign trail for the third time, and this season, his shiny new shtick is pretending to be more “low energy” Jeb Bush and less George Wallace. Trump’s trying to sell himself as a “normal” Republican presidential candidate who didn’t try to overturn the 2020 election with everything from fake electors to an armed insurrection

While a lot of people have been counting the 76-year-old out, Trump is once again planning to rise like a democracy-killing orange phoenix from the ashes of the red puddle midterms. He’s back at it with a new fundraising apparatus, just got reinstated on Facebook, following Twitter, and is racking up endorsements. A couple of indebted freshman senators, Ohio’s J.D. Vance and Missouri’s Eric Schmitt, are poised to join South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and Alabama’s Tommy Tuberville in getting out early to support Trump. 

Trump’s visit this past weekend to a couple early-primary states, New Hampshire and South Carolina, was so uncharacteristically traditional that The New York Times noted he’s making the “type of textbook campaign stops he mostly skipped in his first two runs for office.” It looks like this pseudo-conventional Trump is trying to ride normalcy bias back into the White House. “This campaign will be about the future. This campaign will be about issues. Joe Biden has put America on the fast track to ruin and destruction and we will ensure that he does not receive four more years.” Trump told the crowd at the State Capitol on Saturday in South Carolina. 

Still, Trump fell into his autopilot autocrat mode earlier in a high school auditorium in Salem, New Hampshire, ranting—as he does—about China and the horrors of wind power. 

“We sell China millions and millions of barrels of cheap oil. We’re selling it to China,” Trump said. “We demand windmills be built on our oceans. We demand they go in our prairies and our mountains and our plains only to realize that they’re killing all our birds at a level that if you go out hunting and you happen to shoot a bald eagle, they put you in jail like for five years, right? They kill thousands of them with these windmills. Nothing happens.” 

As I wrote in November after Trump’s lackluster 2024 announcement, the former president, though diminished, can’t be counted out, especially as a crowded primary field could again split the vote, à la 2016, and deliver Trump the GOP nomination. Indeed, Trump seemed unbothered talking to reporters on his private plane between New Hampshire and South Carolina about the prospect of Nikki Haley jumping in the race, which she’s expected to make official soon. Much to the collective horror of the Republican donor class and all decent people everywhere, Trump is still very much in the game. Despite the recommendations from the bipartisan January 6 committee, Trump isn’t barred from running for office after inciting an insurrection. While former Trump Org. CFO Allen Weisselberg and many who stormed the US Capitol on Trump’s behalf have faced jail time, the former president hasn’t been indicted (yet). 

Even as he’s now helped Republicans perform poorly in three election cycles in a row, the party remains unwilling or unable to kick him to the curb. “It’s like 2016 all over again, only more fatalistic,” a Republican consultant told the Atlantic’s McKay Coppins, who grimly noted how GOP officials, privately, will ponder how the Trump situation could “resolve itself naturally: He’s old, after all—how many years can he have left?” So it looks like some Republicans are meagerly banking on a combination of fast food and the actuarial table in the hopes that their party will outlive its front-runner and galvanize around someone who isn’t complete poison to suburban voters. I’m not sure wishing death on your front-runner shows your political party is completely in control of the narrative.

Until that happens, Trump is going to try and pretend he’s not the subject of multiple criminal investigations and civil lawsuits. He’ll probably stick to more conventional campaign stops as opposed to his usual Nascar campaign rallies teeming with boomer MAGA heads who travel around in “Fuck Your Feelings” T-shirts. Luckily for Trump, the mainstream media has a bias toward normalcy. So, the guy who is responsible for eroding democracy, being found to be the single largest driver of COVID disinformation, and ultimately ending his reign with a failed coup attempt, gets treated the same as Jeb Bush? Please clap.

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