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'Unfinished business': Donald Trump kicks off 2024 US presidential run

Former President Donald Trump speaks during the New Hampshire Republican State Committee 2023 annual meeting, 28 January 2023
Former President Donald Trump speaks during the New Hampshire Republican State Committee 2023 annual meeting, 28 January 2023 Copyright AP Photo/Reba Saldanha
Copyright AP Photo/Reba Saldanha
By Euronews with AP
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Early polls suggest the 76-year-old former president is already leading the pack for the Republican Party nomination.

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Former President Donald Trump kicked off his 2024 White House bid with stops in New Hampshire and South Carolina on Saturday, marking the first campaign appearances since announcing his latest run more than two months ago.

"Together we will complete the unfinished business of making America great again," Trump said at an evening event in Columbia to introduce his South Carolina leadership team.

Trump and his allies hope the events in states with enormous power in selecting the nominee will offer a show of force behind the former president after a sluggish start to his campaign that left many questioning his commitment to running again.

"They said, 'He's not doing rallies, he's not campaigning. Maybe he's lost that step,'" Trump said at the New Hampshire GOP's annual meeting in Salem, his first event.

But, he told the audience of party leaders, "I'm more angry now and I'm more committed now than I ever was." In South Carolina, he further dismissed the speculation by saying that "we have huge rallies planned, bigger than ever before."

'Make America Great Again,' again

While Trump has spent the months since he announced largely ensconced in his Florida club and at his nearby golf course, his aides insist they have been busy behind the scenes. 

His campaign opened a headquarters in Palm Beach, Florida, and has been hiring staff. 

And in recent weeks, backers have been reaching out to political operatives and elected officials to secure support for Trump at a critical point when other Republicans are preparing their own expected challenges.

In New Hampshire, Trump promoted his campaign agenda, including immigration and crime, and said his policies would be the opposite of President Joe Biden's. 

He cited the Democrats' move to change the election calendar, costing New Hampshire its primary spot, and accused Biden, a fifth-place finisher in New Hampshire in 2020, of "disgracefully trashing this beloved political tradition".

"I hope you're going to remember that during the general election," Trump told party members. Trump himself twice won the primary but lost the state each time to Democrats.

Later in South Carolina, Trump said he planned to keep the state's presidential primary as the "first in the South" and called it "a very important state".

In his speech, he hurtled from criticism of Biden and Democrats to disparaging comments about transgender people, mockery of people promoting the use of electric stoves and electric cars, and reminiscing about efforts while serving as president to increase oil production, strike trade deals and crack down on migration at the US-Mexico border.

Dinners with anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers

While Trump remains the only declared 2024 presidential candidate, potential challengers, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who was Trump's ambassador to the United Nations, are expected to get their campaigns underway in the coming months.

Trump's campaign, in its early stages, had already drawn controversy, most particularly when he had dinner with Holocaust-denying white nationalist Nick Fuentes and the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who had made a series of antisemitic comments. 

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Trump also was widely mocked for selling a series of digital trading cards that pictured him as a superhero, a cowboy and an astronaut, among others.

He is the subject of a series of criminal investigations, including one into the discovery of hundreds of documents with classified markings at his Florida club and whether he obstructed justice by refusing to return them, as well as state and federal examinations of his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to Biden.

Still, early polling shows he's a favourite to win his party's nomination.

"The gun is fired, and the campaign season has started," said Stephen Stepanek, outgoing chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party. 

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Trump announced that Stepanek would serve as senior adviser for his campaign in the state.

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