The former president has announced his candidacy for the next presidential election in a much more complex context than the one he left two years ago

Trump 2024: His legacy precedes him

REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST - Former US President Donald Trump announces he will run for president of the United States again in 2024.

Donald Trump will try to return to the White House, but the road is not an easy one.
An open secret. That is how one could describe Donald Trump's candidacy for the 2024 presidential elections. The tycoon wants to make the Oval Office his own again and has taken advantage of the mid-term elections to announce his decision. However, this new political journey will have as rivals some of those who were his greatest supporters during his four years at the head of the United States. Mike Pompeo, his Secretary of State for more than two years, and one of Trump's greatest allies at the beginning of his term - after which their relationship drifted apart - Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida since 2019, are some of those he will have to beat if he wants to return to the presidency of the country.

However, justice and the ballot box put Trump on the ropes shortly after announcing his candidacy. Despite not being directly charged in the case, the tax evasion convictions of Trump Corporation and Trump Payroll Corporation seriously affect the image of a Donald Trump openly criticised within his own party. This, added to the Republican defeat in the race for the Senate after Raphael Warnock's second-round victory in Georgia, makes the blow to the tycoon's image double and makes it even more complicated for the former president to regain the White House.

Rivals in his return to the White House

Before analysing what Donald Trump's return to Washington might entail, it should be borne in mind that the former president's path must first overcome opponents from his own Republican camp. There are many names on the list, some who were part of the Trump administration, and others who were just the opposite of his policies during his four years in office. However, the two that stand out above the rest are the aforementioned DeSantis and Pompeo.
DeSantis appears to be the big winner of the mid-term elections. The young governor of Florida - 44 years old - has won his state by an unprecedented margin in the last four decades. He has outpolled his competitor by more than one and a half million votes, a sign of the fervent support that the Harvard and Yale-educated man enjoys. In addition, Ron DeSantis has been gaining a lot of weight within the Republican Party itself, where many are beginning to see him as the best asset to regain the presidency, especially after the sentencing of Trump's businesses.


To this must be added the bad relationship he has with Donald Trump, who accused the governor of being disloyal and assured that his victory in the 2018 elections to win Florida was due to his support from the White House. With all this, DeSantis is postulated as the biggest threat to the former president, who will also face two who, far from being rivals, were at his side during his presidency, Mike Pompeo and Mike Pence. Ex-Secretary of State and ex-Vice President, respectively, will presumably be in the race to represent the elephant's party.
Pence and Pompeo, two of Trump's strongmen during his four years in the Oval Office, were loyal to the former president at all times, at least for the duration of his presidency. The assault on the Capitol and the unfounded accusation of fraud in the 2020 elections distanced Pence, who distanced himself from Trump after the latter accused him of lacking "courage", which the former Secretary of State himself admitted "made him angry". However, Mike Pence has never criticised the tycoon and would be willing, at 63, to run for the presidency, a decision he is still evaluating.


For his part, Pompeo did a great job in foreign policy, including planning the former president's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the historic rapprochement with Israel that culminated in the signing of the Abraham Accords. The former Secretary of State with Donald Trump has on several occasions hinted at his intention to run in the 2024 elections, although he stressed in an interview with Fox News that, should he do so, it would be a personal decision and in no way conditioned by Trump's candidacy.
In addition to these three (apart from Donald Trump), the list of possible candidates to lead the Republican Party in the next elections has other names that sound a little less strong and, above all, unlikely to succeed. This does not mean, of course, that they cannot do it. Liz Cheney, an anti-Trump Republican, said she was willing to do "whatever it takes to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office", although her crushing defeat in Wyoming to Trump-backed Harriet Hageman does not seem to leave much room for optimism.


One should not forget several governors - in addition to the high-profile DeSantis - and senators who may cause Trump problems on his path to the nomination. To Glenn Youngkin, governor of Virginia, or Larry Hogan and Greg Abbot, namesakes in Maryland and Texas respectively, must be added Senators Ted Cruz and Tim Scott, for Texas and South Carolina. All of them could present their candidacy to lead the Republicans in a race for the presidency that has Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump as clear favourites. However, the New York court ruling on the former president's 15 years of corporate tax evasion has sparked a tidal wave of criticism that has hit his candidacy hard.

Trump and his foreign policy

What was sold as an earthquake before Donald Trump's arrival in the White House ended up having, like almost everything in politics, lights and shadows. Without venturing to say what there was more of, the reality is that there were historic breakthroughs in many regions. One of the most important was the signing of the Abraham Accords, considered by many experts to be the "deal of the century". Trump sponsored a ceremony on 15 September 2020 in which the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed peace with Israel, marking a turning point in the geopolitics of the Middle East.
The UAE became the first Gulf country and the third Arab country to normalise relations with Tel Aviv, following in the footsteps of Egypt and Jordan, which did so in 1979 and 1984, respectively. This historic memorandum turned the region's relations around, opening up a whole new context and the possibility, which later became a reality, of forming alliances with other countries, as was later the case with Morocco. In Riyadh we might find the task pending, although not for lack of effort, since the current US president, Joe Biden, travelled in July with the aim of bringing normalisation between Saudi Arabia and Israel closer, although, for the moment, he will have to wait.


Trump's foreign policy has other moves that have left a context, if not favourable, at least not as hostile as might have been expected. This is the case of the dialogue with North Korea, precisely one of the arguments on which the former president's detractors based the idea of an international conflict that had been floating around in public opinion. Far from it, Donald Trump pursued a policy of appeasement, meeting with Kim Jong-Un on two occasions - never before had leaders of these two countries met - first at the Singapore summit (2018), and later in the demilitarised zone on the 38th parallel in the framework of the G20 in South Korea.
When one speaks of light and shadow and the former has already been mentioned, it remains to do the same with the shadows, which are not few. The withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in his first six months in the White House, the departure from the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNESCO and the UN Human Rights Council are some of the actions that the former president was criticised for. However, none of them were as decisive as the unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)


"Today I am announcing that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. In a few moments, I will sign a presidential order to begin reimposing US sanctions tied to the Iranian regime's nuclear programme. We will reimpose the highest level of economic sanctions". Those were the words spoken by Trump in the White House reception room on 8 May 2018, shortly before the three-year anniversary of his signature in Vienna. Donald Trump imposed tough sanctions against Tehran and a security crisis began that, more than four years later, is still unsuccessfully seeking a solution.
Meetings have been held in the Austrian capital in recent years, but the - probably justified - mistrust on both sides makes a real rapprochement impossible. Iran does not intend to stop enriching uranium - it already does so at 60%, 16 times more than the JCPOA's 3.67% - until sanctions are lifted. And, to no one's surprise, the West, led by the United States, is doing the same with sanctions without first halting uranium enrichment. Meanwhile, the shadow of nuclear weapons production hangs over Western concerns amid Iranian hints of reaching the required 90% purity.

Iran: from nuclear to social crisis

If when Donald Trump left office the concern was this lack of protection in the face of Iranian nuclear activity, now, to this problem, which is still far from being resolved, must be added the internal crisis facing Iran. The death of Mahsa Amini triggered a wave of demonstrations that are crying out for help from the international community. The Iranian population is fighting a battle against the dictatorial regime of Ali Khamenei, whose power is in danger for the first time in 43 years of Ayatollah dictatorship.
And it is in this context that more can - and should - be demanded of the powers. Biden recently said that "we are going to liberate Iran", but beyond the intentions and declarations of numerous international leaders, the facts are not forthcoming and the number of deaths at the hands of Iranian security forces continues to rise to over 300, according to official figures from Tehran, which suggests that the real figure will be much higher. Action is not forthcoming and the explanation lies largely in the negotiation of the nuclear deal.


This is why both crises, or rather the resolution of one of them, is to some extent linked to the crisis unleashed by Donald Trump's unilateral decision. It is clear that the instability in the streets of Iran has nothing to do with the exit from the JCPOA, but what is certain is that the international community is cautious about taking action on Iranian soil in the face of the imminent resumption of the talks in Vienna, whose intention is to remain aloof from what is happening within the borders of the country presided over by Ebrahim Raisi.
To venture what Donald Trump might do in the Oval Office at this moment would be as bold as it would be unrealistic. What can be known is that Trump, when it comes to Iran, has always been more hardline than soft, something that was evident both in his policies and in his now restored Twitter account where he threatened the then Iranian president, Hasan Rohani: "To Iranian President Rohani: Never, never threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences like few in history have ever suffered before. We are no longer a country that will stand for your insane words of violence and death. Be cautious!"


So, speaking in hypothetical and futuristic terms, Trump would face a very different context than when he lost the election two years ago. As if what is happening in Iran were not enough, the Russia-Ukraine war brings down another of the most important unknowns as far as Donald Trump's possible response is concerned. In this case, the precedents are much smaller, but the tycoon has taken it upon himself to explain what he would have done if he were in the White House in the event of this invasion, although, as Trump himself assures us, "Putin would not have done it" if he were president.
In fact, Donald Trump believes he could have reached an agreement with the Kremlin, with Ukraine handing over Crimea and Zelenski's country committing not to join NATO.
However, Trump himself says that, given the current scenario, reaching a meeting point is very difficult because "now (Putin) does not want to reach an agreement". And, furthermore, he ventures that Russia "is going to conquer it (Ukraine) in its entirety and it is very, very sad to see what has happened in Ukraine". What, according to the former president, was "a negotiation tactic" (sending hundreds of thousands of soldiers and military equipment to the border) has ended up with the invasion of a country.

Could Trump return to the White House?

Donald Trump's candidacy has come as a surprise to no one, but it does not detract from the fact that the general dissatisfaction with his candidacy has been great. Bigger than could have been expected before the midterm elections, in fact. The midterm elections were not as bad for the Democrats as the polls had predicted. Republicans took the Congress with 218 seats to the Democrats' 211. However, Senate will still belong to Joe Biden's party after winning Georgia in the second round. The expected "red tide" came to nothing, leaving Ron DeSantis as the outstanding winner, so the result, as far as his race to lead the Republican Party is concerned, was far from bad. 
What is bad, and in this case for Trump, is the latest Quinnipiac University national poll. Six out of ten Americans think it is bad that Trump is running for president again, although the really worrying figure for Trump is the one that refers to the Republicans themselves. More than a quarter (27%) do not approve of the former president returning to represent their party in the presidential elections, showing clear signs of the erosion of Trumpism that had already been talked about.


Many have used the mid-term elections to speak of a Republican defeat, but it should not be forgotten that, although not as loosely as expected, the defeat is still for the Democrats. There has even been talk of a blow to Trumpism that sees how the Republican electorate may be ready to adopt a more centrist line represented by DeSantis. But if there is one thing that was clear in the polls that brought Trump to the Oval Office - they announced a wide victory for Hilary Clinton - it is that polls are not infallible, and even less so when we are talking about a figure as controversial and unpredictable as that of the now new candidate for the presidency of the United States in 2024, Donald Trump.

Americas Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.

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