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Former President Donald Trump hit the campaign trail on Saturday for the first time since announcing his 2024 presidential bid, saying he is “more angry” and “more committed” to winning the presidency as his former political allies weigh bids to potentially challenge him for the GOP nomination.
“The 2024 election is our one shot to save our country, and we need a leader who is ready to do that on day one,” Trump said to his supporters at the South Carolina State House in Columbia, before suggesting that he was the GOP candidate best suited to win in 2024.
Trump delivered similar speeches at both stops in New Hampshire and South Carolina, mostly focused on the Biden administration’s handling of foreign policy issues such as the war in Ukraine, the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan and immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Through weakness and incompetence, Joe Biden has brought us to the brink of world war three,” Trump said in South Carolina, claiming that he could end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine within the first 24 hours of his presidency. He also echoed his infamous 2015 speech — when he first announced his candidacy — in which he called immigrants coming into the country via Mexico “killers,” “murderers,” “rapists” and “terrorists.”
The twice-impeached former president repeated many of the same falsehoods and misinformation about the 2020 election that he has since he lost to Mr. Biden in November of 2020.
Trump falsely claimed that he “won two general elections” and alleged that Democrats are “great at stealing elections,” lines which evoked applause from his audience at the New Hampshire Republican State Committee in Salem. There has been no credible evidence of widespread voter fraud in 2024.
The rallies come as former political allies of Trump consider their own campaigns for the GOP nomination in 2024, like former Vice President Mike Pence, former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Trump also spoke with reporters on his way from New Hampshire to South Carolina, telling reporters that he spoke with Haley — South Carolina’s former governor. He said she called him this week to tell him she was considering running against him. Trump said he told Haley that she “should do it.”
On the plane press gaggle, Trump took aim at the potential candidate that may pose the largest threat to his third White House bid: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“I got him elected,” Trump said of DeSantis, whose anti-COVID-19 policies, and hardline conservative stance on social issues, has made him a favorite in primary states like New Hampshire.
“Ron would have not been governor if it wasn’t for me,” Trump said.
During the South Carolina invite-only event, Trump unveiled his state campaign leadership team, which includes Gov. Henry McMaster and Sen. Lindsey Graham — both of whom had already expressed that they would endorse Trump for reelection.
During his nearly 50-minute long speech, Trump addressed about 200 conservatives and reinforced that Republicans were going to take back the White House in 2024.
“With your vote next year. We will do it again and I will do it again. This will not be my campaign. This is going to be our campaign,” Trump said.
Many of the attendees at the South Carolina event were Trump supporters who were willing to once again commit to him by casting a ballot in his favor.
“He has the personality. He has morals. He has the business stand. He is down to earth. He takes care of the people,” Robin Holley told CBS News.
Holley is a South Carolina Trump supporter who is part of an online group called the Trump Girls.
“We just need Trump back in there to straighten us out again, and get us back on the right track, and then put Santos back in the office,” she said.
Other attendees were less bullish, saying they were there to listen to what Trump had to say with the purpose of examining if he is really the right candidate.
“My voice needs to be heard and that’s who I’m gonna go with,” Ross F. Ward told CBS News.
Ward said he has been a Trump supporter in the past, but acknowledged that the former president has made mistakes.
“He needs to humble himself,” Ward said. “If you want to lead the free world, Donald Trump, you need to humble yourself and admit when you made a mistake.”
Trump was first impeached by the House in 2019 on allegations he betrayed the country for his own political benefit and obstructed a congressional investigation into his actions.
In January of 2021, he was impeached again, this time for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a special counsel to oversee the investigation into documents marked classified which were seized at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last August by the FBI. A special grand jury in Georgia has also been investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss in that state.