Trump Reelection Campaign Gets Reboot 07/10 06:31
President Donald Trump's campaign reboot is getting a reboot.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump's campaign reboot is getting a
He will take baby steps back out onto the road Friday after a multiweek
hiatus caused by a nationwide surge in coronavirus cases and after his planned
comeback in Oklahoma turned into a debacle.
Trump, trailing in the polls, is eager to signal that normal life can resume
despite a rampaging virus that has killed more than 130,000 Americans. He'll
hold his first in-person fundraiser in a month on Friday in Florida and then a
rally on Saturday night in New Hampshire.
Trump's rally in Portsmouth was scheduled after aides spent weeks studying
what went wrong in Tulsa three weeks ago. It was billed as a massive, defiant
return to the political stage but instead produced a humiliating sea of empty
seats and questions about the campaign's ability to attract people to large
events in a pandemic.
Trump's Friday fundraiser takes him to terrain where COVID-19's surge
threatens his hold on a must-win state and raises questions about Republican
aims to hold their nominating convention in Jacksonville next month. Trump will
also hold a small event supporting the people of Venezuela and visit U.S.
Southern Command in Miami to highlight a reduction in the flow of illegal drugs
into the United States, though much of the credit belongs to the pandemic,
which has paralyzed economies, closed borders and severed supply chains.
It's unclear how many people will attend the New Hampshire rally, campaign
officials acknowledge. Conceding that another sparse crowd would raise
questions about the future of Trump's rallies, the campaign has taken
additional steps to make attendees feel safe.
Unlike the one in Tulsa, which was held indoors where the virus more easily
circulates, the rally in Portsmouth will be partially outdoors, held in an
airplane hangar open on one side with the crowd spilling out onto the tarmac
before Air Force One.
"All of Donald Trump's rallies and all of his events are electric," said
campaign spokesperson Hogan Gidley. "The president wants to go in there and
talk about all the accomplishments he's done in his first term and how he's
made people's lives better."
Moreover, while masks were distributed in Tulsa, few rallygoers wore them
after weeks of Trump deriding their use. This time, the campaign has strongly
encouraged their use.
The venue will be significantly smaller than the cavernous Tulsa arena, and
aides are deliberately setting lower expectations for crowd size. Before the
Oklahoma event, which spurred days of protests, campaign manager Brad Parscale
boasted that a million ticket requests had been received. The Tulsa fire
marshal said 6,000 people attended.
New Hampshire has had a relatively low number of COVID-19 cases, while those
in Oklahoma were rising before Trump arrived. Oklahoma health officials said
the rally and accompanying protests "likely contributed" to a surge in
infections in the city. Several campaign staffers and Secret Service agents
tested positive for the virus.
Despite the risks, the Trump campaign believes it needs to return to the
road, both to animate the president, who draws energy from his crowds, and to
inject life into a campaign that's facing a strong challenge from Democratic
candidate Joe Biden.
"The campaign feels he needs to be out there, but every time he speaks in
front of crowds, there is a chance the virus spreads," said Julian Zelizer, a
presidential historian at Princeton University. "But it's just as bad if he
comes out to an empty crowd, which could be a sign that people are not enthused
or they are scared."
The choice to hold the rally in New Hampshire, where the president is
trailing significantly, in part reflects the current lack of options, said four
campaign officials and Republicans close to the endeavor who spoke on condition
of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss internal
Battleground states with Democratic governors, such as Michigan and
Pennsylvania, have indicated they wouldn't waive health regulations to allow
large gatherings, though the campaign will be willing to legally contest that
in time, according to the officials. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a
Republican, may meet with Trump on Saturday but has said he won't attend the
Advisers said local officials in other states will be watching how
Saturday's event goes.
The rally comes amid persistent questions about Trump's handling of the
pandemic and the acceleration of his use of racial tensions as a reelection
Part of Trump's inflammatory appeal has been a defense of Confederate
symbols, which he has twinned with a defense of the Founding Fathers. There has
been talk of displaying statues of American heroes at the rally, two campaign
officials said. Aides also previewed a renewed attempt in the coming days to
link Biden to the liberal wing of his party, including Reps. Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
Trump narrowly lost New Hampshire in 2016. Before the pandemic, the state
was on a short list along with Minnesota and New Mexico that the Trump campaign
hoped to flip from blue to red. Advisers believe the states could be in play
again if the economy rebounds.
The Trump campaign has also been eager to return to the road to draw a
contrast with Biden, whom it's painted as being marooned in the basement of his
Biden has been unapologetic about following recommendations from public
health officials amid the pandemic. He's conducted regular online fundraisers
and campaign events from makeshift television studios at his house, while
sitting for remote video interviews with national networks and local stations
in battleground states. He holds regular telephone, video and some in-person
meetings with advisers.
"For the over six months during which Donald Trump has atrociously
mismanaged this unprecedented outbreak, the American people have been crying
out, 'where is our president?' because Donald Trump has been anything but one,"
said campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates.
Biden has traveled by car around Delaware or nearby Pennsylvania for a
handful of events, and, in a contrast to Trump, wears a mask and observes
social distancing guidelines.