Trump’s slow start and self-inflicted missteps have conspired to paint a picture of an isolated candidate and a campaign low on early-days energy that is facing strengthening headwinds.
Former President Donald Trump is a little more than a month into his bid to win back his party, redeem his presidency and take control of the White House for another term as commander in chief.
But you’d hardly know it.
Since Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign shortly before the midterm elections in a scripted, subdued speech at his Mar-a-Lago club, he has held no major campaign events or rallies and has been nearly absent from large media outlets and other platforms, even as skepticism from within his own party grows stronger.
That absence has persisted in the face of a number of external blows and buzz, including criminal fraud convictions against his sprawling real estate company, the Trump Organization, last month and, most recently, a decision this week by the House Ways and Means Committee to publicly release six years of his tax returns that he has zealously fought to keep hidden.
Trump has instead taken to his social media platform, Truth Social, interspersing more run-of-the-mill political commentary with dense paragraphs of insult-ridden and conspiracy-laden text – some in all-caps – and reposting memes, including those referencing the sprawling far-right conspiracy theory, QAnon.
And last week, a “major announcement” that generated anticipation about a potential campaign event or news turned out in the end to be the rollout of Trump-themed non-fungible tokens, or what he called “digital trading cards.”
The cards – which feature flattering cartoon drawings of Trump as an astronaut, superhero and NASCAR driver, for example – sold for $99 each. Nestled deep within the fine print was a disclaimer that the cards and the revenue they generated were unconnected with the campaign. The money instead is going to a third-party, for-profit corporation.
The rollout of the cards, which included a dramatic video where lasers shot out of the eyes of a cartoon depiction of Trump, inspired near-instant mockery and derision – and accusations of scamming. Even some of Trump’s staunchest allies on the right appeared exasperated.
“I can’t do this anymore,” Steve Bannon, former White House adviser under Trump and now far-right commentator, said on a right-wing television show, noting all of Trump’s aides who were involved in the venture should be fired.
“I supported Trump for years, but this is ridiculous,” John Cardillo, a well known conservative pundit and Trump supporter said on Twitter after the NFT announcement.
The trading card rollout underscored and amplified in the following days concerns about Trump’s slow campaign start and fueled criticism that Trump appeared unmotivated, unserious, and uncommitted to a presidential run – and it capped off a month of growing criticism, major scandals, legal woes and polling troubles for Trump.