Trump lands in Florida: what will he do next?
Former President Donald Trump left the White House on Wednesday for his Mar-a-Lago resort, but what does he have planned for life post-presidency?
On the morning of President Joe Biden’s inauguration his predecessor shopped into Air Force One for the last time to take him to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. In doing so he became the first President in over 150 years to choose to miss his successor’s Inauguration Day but Donald Trump left Washington, DC after a “farewell ceremony” with his supporters.
Trump had been suggesting for months that he would not attend a Biden inauguration so it was no surprise to see him jetting off but his next move, for now, remains a mystery. While the events in the Capitol on 6 January have done his reputation irreparable harm, Trump has previously hinted that he plans for a continued career in politics.
Trump returns to Mar-a-Lago resort for post-presidency break
Throughout his time in office Trump was repeatedly criticised for the amount of time spent at his ‘Winter White House’, so it is no surprise that he spent the final hours of his presidency at Mar-a-Lago. Trump owns the Florida golfing resort and he over-performed his national polling in the Sunshine State during the 2020 presidential election.
After two hugely damaging weeks to end his four-year stint in the White House, Trump may well have been looking for a familiar site to relax in. After his ill-fated Washington speech that sparked the riots in Congress Trump has been criticised from both sides of the political aisle. His impeachment in the House of Representatives was the most bipartisan in history and he stands a very real chance of being found guilty in the Senate trial still to come.
Now banned from all major social media sites and online platforms, Trump will probably opt for a period of rest from Mar-a-Lago while he decides his next move. He may even have the time for a round of golf.
Trump may consider a 2024 run for president
Although Trump has already left office, there is still plenty on the table for the former president in the Senate impeachment trial. If he is found guilty of “incitement for insurrection” he will be barred from holding office ever again, something that he is rumoured to be considering.
Public opinion has certainly soured in recent weeks but crucially, Trump retains the support of a large segment of his base. In a series of NBC News polls conducted from 10-13 January, many Republicans appeared unwilling to split from Trump after the Capitol Hill riots.
Only 11% of GOP voters blamed Trump for the violence, while 28% of those polled actually said that his actions in the run-up to the 6 January made them happier to have supported him. Most strikingly, 66% of Republicans polled in the survey said that their feelings towards him were unchanged, suggesting that he may be a popular pick for Republican presidential nominee once again.
In his farewell address, Trump told supporters: “I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning. There's never been anything like it.”
Florida is Trump’s new political power base
Trump’s nationwide popularity has clearly diminished since he was elected in 2016, losing the 2020 election by the same number of Electoral College vote that he called “a landslide” four year earlier. However in Florida, one of few swing states that remained Red, he actually tripled his margin of victory.
This points to a shifting political landscape in the Sunshine State which has seen it become increasingly Republican, and particularly pro-Trump. This represents an opportunity for Trump, whose popularity has suffered elesewhere. Not only did the former President board the flight to Florida but so too did the majority of his family, suggesting that the whole ‘Make America Great Again’ movement may be moving to the coast.
Republican strategist Rick Wilson described Florida as the “Trumpiest of states” in a recent interview with the Washington Post, adding “this is the logical place for them to go”.
Not only is there strong existing support but the arrival of a former president will almost certainly boost the state’s position in the Republican political ecosystem. We will likely see GOP leaders, consultants, media and fundraisers making more frequent appearances in the state, with Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort a likely venue for activities.
As well as the political potential, this situation would also come with significant financial benefits for Trump. Political science professor Peter Bergerson of Florida Gulf Coast University has suggested that Trump may use Florida as base from which to rehabilitate his reputation, endorsing candidates who will help him return to the fold. However, Bergerson also predicts that there will be a sizeable financial motivation on the table too.
“The political gig is going to be associated with the financial; he tried to monetize the presidency already,” Bergerson said. “How he’s going to use the post-presidency, that’s how he’s going to use it first and foremost - what can I get out of it from a financial standpoint?”