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“Trump sees Biden is on the ropes. He wants to throw punches as a combatant, not a heckler from the stands,” said Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, adding that Trump is in no rush to announce, though, because “the base is rightly loyal to him. And a good rule in politics is to be a candidate for as short a time as necessary.

Gaetz, like the dozen Trump advisers and friends interviewed for this article, declined to disclose his conversations within the organization or with Trump. But he said it’s more likely than not Trump takes the plunge, especially after the 2022 midterm elections if the GOP takes back one or both chambers of Congress.

Trump, in recent interviews, has shied away from divulging specifics about his plans, but he’s privately suggested to others he’s running. He’s also paying attention to the finer details behind the scenes, such as making editing suggestions to his web ads to make them harder hitting against Biden.

His operation is likewise taking concrete steps to enhance his profile and position him for a potential campaign. In addition to hiring a new communications staffer to keep up with the increased activity, several rallies have been added recently to Trump’s fall schedule — there are plans for events in the first-in-the-nation presidential state of Iowa and the critical swing-state of Florida.

Perhaps more revealing, less than a month ago the PAC announced it hired two top operatives from Iowa dedicated to “advancing Save America’s goals of electing strong, pro-Trump, America First conservatives.”

The Iowa staffers also serve another purpose, Trump advisers say: they can keep an eye on the other potential Republican presidential candidates flooding the first-in-the-nation caucus state.

One person who has discussed Trump’s plans but declined to comment on the record to speak more freely said that “he really hasn’t decided, but we all think he’ll run … he wants to get in a position to where it’s a turnkey operation once he says yes. So he’s maximizing his position … the PAC is ostensibly to help win back the House and the Senate. If he does that, it makes his position stronger.”

Nearly every poll shows that Trump, at this point, has little to fear from others in a Republican primary. The top potential GOP candidates in 2024 have said they wouldn’t run against him — or have shied away from saying they would — and refrained from criticizing him.

Trump campaign adviser, Jason Miller, declared Thursday that the chances of him running are “between 99 and 100 percent. I think he is definitely running in 2024. I had a good conversation with him last night. I’m going to go see him in another couple days here.”

Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who spoke with Trump this week, voiced similar opinions in an undercover video shot Thursday by a Democratic activist, saying “I know so [that Trump is going to run again]. I talked to him yesterday. He’s about ready to announce after all of this craziness in Afghanistan.”

Trump’s leadership PAC declined to comment for this story. Federal election laws limit a leadership PAC’s spending for announced presidential candidates. A person who is not a federal candidate can spend leadership PAC money with far fewer restrictions.

Only one former president, Grover Cleveland in 1892, has ever returned from defeat to reclaim his old office. Trump would turn 78 years old during the 2024 campaign, making him even older than Ronald Reagan when he left office at the end of his second term.

Even so, Trump’s fundraising picked up this year as he raised $82 million in the first six months in three political committees. He also stepped up the number of conservative radio interviews, sat with Sean Hannity on Fox as well as the right-wing One America News Network.

Trump has said he remains focused on Republicans winning back the House and Senate and has only teased another run by saying “you’ll be happy” with whatever he decides.

In an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business, the ex-president blamed election laws for his inability to make an announcement.

“The campaign finance laws, which are antiquated and stupid, OK? Stupid and corrupt in a way. They’re stupid. Doesn’t allow me to tell you that, OK? If I tell you that a whole host of things happen, which are bad. So I can’t tell you. I can tell you this. I love our country and you’re going to be very happy,” Trump said.

Though deplatformed from Twitter and Facebook for spreading misinformation and sparking the Capitol riot that led to his historic second impeachment, Trump has remained the heart of the party and the most sought-after endorser in Republican primary politics. Now, instead of his flood of daily tweets, his leadership PAC sends out tweet-length statements, sometimes repeatedly in a day.

The pace notably picked up in mid-August as Biden struggled to gain public approval for his handling of the U.S. exit from Afghanistan (Biden has said he was following Trump’s planned withdrawal), “he started bleeding, and Trump is like a shark. He smelled blood,” said one confidante with whom Trump has recently spoken. But another cautioned that “he was running before the Afghanistan debacle. It’s nothing new.”


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