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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 
reboot.

   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 
deliberations.

   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 
rally.

   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 
weapon.

   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 
Delaware home.

   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.

 
 
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