Donald Trump’s announcement that he’s running for US president in 2024 wasn’t a lark, or a ploy to avoid prosecution, as some have speculated. He’s hitting the road and laying the kind of groundwork necessary for a serious bid to recapture the White House

Nearly three months after announcing his campaign, the former president made his first campaign foray out of his adopted home state of Florida on Saturday

In New Hampshire, he addressed a meeting of the Republican Party and announced the outgoing state party chair would be a senior adviser to his campaign. And at the state capitol in Columbia, South Carolina, he received the endorsements of the state’s governor, Henry McMaster, and Senator Lindsey Graham

The latter, a Trump confidante who expressed some disillusionment after the Capitol riot on 6 January 2021, is now back firmly in the fold

“How many times have you heard, ‘We like Trump policies, but we want somebody new?” Mr Graham asked the crowd. “There are no Trump policies without Donald Trump. I was there

Mr Trump once again denied his 2020 defeat and told supporters that he – unlike any possible Republican alternatives – would be the most effective nominee in 2024

“To change the whole system, you need a president who can take on the whole system and a president who can win,” he said from the state capitol’s main hall

In both stops, Mr Trump touted what he said was his record of success during his presidency and attacked President Joe Biden’s record on crime, immigration and the economy

Across the street, Todd Gerhardt, a Republican district executive committee member from nearby Charleston, sold honey in Trump-shaped plastic bottles

Mr Gerhardt was an early supporter of Mr Trump’s first presidential campaign, organised a 2016 rally for him on South Carolina’s posh Kiawah Island, and recently visited the former president’s Mar-a-Lago estate for a fundraiser and to provide his honey for the campaign’s gift bags

He said Mar-a-Lago had a festive atmosphere as the Trump team geared up for the coming fight and he dismissed concerns that Republican voters, in South Carolina and across the US, might be looking for a different nominee this time around

“When people talk about other candidates running and they say I’m going to do this, or I’m going to do that, Trump has actually done it,” Gerhardt says. “He has all the oxygen in the room”