Donald Trump was calling into yet another friendly radio show when he was asked, as he often is, whether he’s planning a comeback bid for the White House. “We need you,” conservative commentator Dan Bongino told the former president.
“Well, I’ll tell you what,” Trump responded. “We are going to make you very happy, and we’re going to do what’s right.”
It was a noncommittal answer typical of a former president who spent decades toying with presidential runs. But multiple people who have spoken with Trump and his team in recent weeks say such remarks shouldn’t be viewed as idle chatter. Instead, they sense a shift, with Trump increasingly acting and talking like he plans to mount a run as he embarks on a more public phase of his post-presidency, beginning with a speech on Saturday in North Carolina.
The interest in another run, at least for now, comes as Trump has been consumed by efforts to undo last year’s election, advancing baseless falsehoods that it was stolen and obsessing over recounts and audits that he is convinced could overturn the results, even though numerous recounts have validated his loss. He’s also facing the most serious legal threat of his career.
New York prosecutors have convened a special grand jury to consider evidence in their criminal investigation into his business dealings — seen by many as a sign that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is moving toward seeking charges in the two-year, wide-ranging investigation that has included scrutiny of hush money payments, property valuations and employee compensation.
Trump has slammed the probe as “purely political,” and those around him insist he isn’t concerned about potential legal exposure even as they suggest his political posture is evolving.
“I have definitely picked up a shift that there’s more of an intentionality to be leaning on the side of it’s going to happen than it’s not,” said Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union, who is close to the former president. “I think it’s a very real possibility.”
Trump would face daunting headwinds in addition to his legal vulnerabilities. He would run with the legacy of being the only American president to be impeached twice. A campaign would almost certainly revive memories of the deadly insurrection he helped spark at the U.S. Capitol earlier this year, potentially dragging down other Republicans who have sought to move past the violence.
Beyond that, Trump would be 78 years old on Inauguration Day in 2025 — the same age as Democrat Joe Biden on his own Inauguration Day this year — and multiple Republicans are already making moves for runs of their own. Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, is slated to visit the early voting state of New Hampshire on Thursday.
Trump has long dangled the prospect of presidential campaigns to gin up media attention and stay part of the conversation. And many had initially brushed off Trump’s talk of another run as a tool to maintain relevance and his status as a GOP kingmaker. But there are tentative signs that he plans to follow through in more substantive ways to test his political strength, including by holding rallies this summer. His team is…
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