President Donald Trump is hoping to outrun the coronavirus pandemic as he bids for reelection in 2020. His return to the campaign trail Saturday night in Tulsa, Okla. demonstrates just how difficult that’s going to be.
Trump skipped a planned appearance outside of the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla., which Campaign Spokesman Tim Murtaugh blamed on “radical protestors, coupled with a relentless onslaught from the media,” who “attempted to frighten off the President’s supporters” with their warnings about the pandemic risk.
Reporters on the scene, however, denied seeing large numbers of people turned away from the overflow stage. Inside the 20,000-person BOK Center, meanwhile, whole sections of the arena remained empty. Health experts had issued increasingly stark warnings in the lead up to the rally, while a June 15 editorial in the Tulsa World argued it was “the wrong time” to hold a campaign gathering.
The disappointing turnout is a blow to Trump and his Republican allies, who hoped the rally would kick start a new phase of the campaign after a politically brutal spring. National and swing-state polling show Trump trailing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, amid mounting criticism of the president’s handling of both the coronavirus and the protests against police brutality sweeping the nation.