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What are the experts saying about Trump's candidacy announcement?

The former president's 'low energy' was certainly uncharacteristic — but also potentially part of the plan

On Tuesday night, former President Donald Trump officially announced his third consecutive bid for the White House — a decision that, while expected, has enormous implications for both major political parties.

Is the bid Trump's worst idea ever, considering his faltering support and poor showing in the midterms? Or is he exactly what the Republican Party needs at a time like this? The country's top politicos and a few experts and analysts weigh in:

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.): Trump will be 'hard to beat'

Sen. Lindsay Graham and Trump have always had a bit of an unusual relationship. But in the wake of Trump's speech at his Mar-a-Lago mansion on Tuesday, Graham had nothing but good things to say. "If President Trump continues this tone and delivers this message on a consistent basis, he will be hard to beat," Graham tweeted. "His speech tonight, contrasting his policies and results against the Biden administration, charts a winning path for him in the primaries and the general election."

Graham added that "as we listen to President Trump remind us of what is possible regarding our borders, economy, and national security, it is my hope that he will continue to focus on the solutions that he offered tonight to restore a broken America."

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee: Trump made a 'pitch perfect' appeal

"Trump got his mojo back," Fox News contributor and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) tweeted after the announcement. Trump's speech was "pitch perfect" in how it focused on the American people and "the future, not the past." If the former president "stays on this path, he's unbeatable," Huckabee predicted.

Ryan J. Rusak: Now Trump just needs to stay out of his own way

Rusak, the opinion editor for Texas' Fort Worth Star-Telegram, also thinks the Tuesday night version of Trump could stand a chance in 2024 … but only if he doesn't stand in his own way. When Trump "uncharacteristically" stuck "mostly to the script" — and avoided mentions of his Republican rivals and the 2020 election — it seemed he "might be unbeatable," Rusak wrote in his analysis of the evening. After all, Trump does his best work when he's "highlighting the pain and frustration of inflation, crime, and immigration" without falling into his typical rhetorical traps. But Trump became the "Wacky Rally" version of himself in the second half of his speech, Rusak said, demonstrating "he's not capable of this kind of discipline for two hours, let alone two years." 

Bill Kristol: Underestimate Trump at your own risk

The Bulwark's Bill Kristol is also of the mind Trump could pull off a comeback. "Do not underestimate Trump," an "alarmed" Kristol tweeted the morning after the announcement. "He won the Republican nomination twice and the presidency once. He's a proven demagogue on the national stage. He's launching early to stall others' momentum. He could win the nomination again. He could win the presidency again."

Not to mention "there are a lot of voters out there who still want Trump," Kristol noted, speaking separately with Newsy. As the electorate has demonstrated, there's not much room in the party for an anti-Trump Republican nominee (just take exiled GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, for example). But overall, the former president's more "muted" speech hit all the right notes strategically, Kristol mused, affording him ample opportunity to hone his latest message into one that resonates with his base.

Former Vice President Mike Pence: Americans have 'better choices' out there

Just one day after Trump's big moment, rumored 2024 hopeful and former Vice President Mike Pence told Fox News' Fox & Friends he believes Americans will have "better choices" than Trump in the upcoming presidential election. "I don't think anyone could have beaten Hillary Clinton other than Donald Trump in 2016 … ​​[b]ut I think there's a genuine desire for leadership that could unite the country around our highest ideals and for more of the civility and respect that Americans show each other every day," Pence told hosts Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, and Ainsley Earhardt. 

Since leaving the White House, Pence said he's realized "the American people actually get along pretty well most days, and it's our politics that'd deeply divided." He senses that what voters actually want is "a new style of leadership that'll reflect the way they deal with one another every day."

Sarah Matthews: Is this the new 'low energy' Trump?

Former Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Matthews was not impressed by Trump's tone, going as far as to describe the former president's speech announcing his candidacy as "low energy" and "uninspiring." "Even the crowd seems bored," Matthews, who served under Trump, tweeted in real time. "Not exactly what you want when announcing a presidential run." Per The Hill, Trump opted for a much "calmer" and "subdued" tone and demeanor — something others in the political realm also picked up on. "Bored? A lot of people are. Read about [President Biden's] high energy record!" tweeted Biden's Deputy White House Press Secretary Andrew Bates, sharing a link to a new White House webpage highlighting the current administration's legislative achievements.

Michael Knowles: Trump is clearly already strategizing against DeSantis

Conservative commentator Michael Knowles acknowledged Trump's softer tone and rhetoric, but noted it was likely a strategic decision to contrast the former president against his "chief rival," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). Fans of DeSantis describe him as "Trump without the downsides," Knowles noted, and the former president "wanted to show that he can be Trump without the downsides too."

The National Review: Just say 'no'

With a succinct and to-the-point headline, The National Review editorial board made its position on Trump's third run incredibly clear: "No."

While the former president's administration wasn't without its successes, the board argued, it was otherwise "chaotic even on its best days" thanks to Trump's "erratic nature and lack of seriousness." Ultimately, "GOP voters should give up on the idea that Trump is a winner" — just look at the margins in his last two presidential contests, and his seemingly adverse effect on the 2022 midterms.

With that in mind, and considering what's "transpired since 2020," it's easy to assume "Trump is weaker" than he was before, the board continued. The answer to his 2024 candidacy "should be a firm, unmistakable, No."

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.): 'A stain on our nation'

Frequent Trump critic, Jan. 6 committee member, and retiring Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) responded to the former president's now-official candidacy with a scathing Twitter video in which he described Trump as an "abuser and a conman." "Donald Trump is a stain on our nation," Kinzinger said Tuesday night, "... but to my fellow Republican leaders, listen: If you ever want to look in the mirror without shame, stand up and speak out now."

Robert Schlesinger: This is a 'suicide mission' for the GOP

At this point, there is no world in which the Republican party can separate itself from Trump, Robert Schlesinger argued for The New Republic. It's a "suicide mission," he said. If Trump wins the nomination, the Republican Party "would only be more enmeshed with the Trump brand." But if he loses, he'll probably once again cry fraud and spew conspiracy theories rather than support the nominee who bested him. Either way, the GOP will "need a substantial amount of time to unwind itself from the Faustian bargain it made in 2015," Schlesinger concluded, "and there's every reason to suspect that this is a concern it'll endeavor to avoid rather than confront."

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