Trump postpones New Hampshire rally over tropical stormSaturday, July 11, 2020
MI AMI (AP) — United States President Donald Trump is postponing a rally planned for today in New Hampshire, the White House said, citing a tropical storm threatening parts of the mid-Atlantic and southern New England.
Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters travelling to Florida with the president yesterday that the event — slated to be held in an aircraft hangar in Portsmouth — would be delayed by a week or two. She cited the threat of Tropical Storm Fay, which is expected to bring rain to the region.
The event was to mark Trump's first political rally in three weeks, after his return to his signature campaign events from a coronavirus-induced hiatus was overshadowed by an embarrassing display of empty seats and questions about the campaign's ability to attract people to large events in a pandemic.
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 held his first in-person fund-raiser in a month yesterday.
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 fund-raiser yesterday took 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.
“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 rally goers wore them after weeks of Trump deriding their use.
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.”
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 travelled 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.
Biden has been unapologetic about following recommendations from public health officials amid the pandemic. He's conducted regular online fund-raisers 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.
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