Trump seeks to regain 2020 momentum with campaign rallies

Trump seeks to regain 2020 momentum with campaign rallies
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE is returning to the campaign trail after a three-month hiatus that has seen his reelection prospects weakened over his handling of the novel coronavirus and police brutality protests.

Trump will attend a fundraiser in Dallas on Thursday and is scheduled to resume his campaign rallies next week, events that are sure to energize the president as he embarks on a five-month fight for reelection and seeks to draw a contrast with presumptive Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenFacebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' Senate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus MORE.

The president has been eager to restart normal campaign activities after weeks of being cooped up at the White House amid the coronavirus pandemic. He eased back into occasional travel in early May — making trips roughly once a week — but Thursday’s fundraiser will be his first foray into in-person campaign business since March.


Those close to the campaign say the move to hold rallies again will offer a morale boost for the president and his reelection effort. Trump has struggled to tackle a trio of crises over the last three months, as Biden widens his lead in national and swing-state polls.

A Gallup poll released Wednesday showed Trump’s approval rating has sunk to 39 percent, a 10-point drop in less than a month and a figure that represents the lowest point since October, when the impeachment inquiry had just gotten underway. His standing has eroded as more than 100,000 people in the U.S. have died from the coronavirus, millions are out of work and protesters have taken to the streets in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

The rallies offer Trump an outlet to speak directly to throngs of supporters and give the campaign a forum to collect important data used to microtarget voters.

“Anytime the president is talking about his vision for America in front of an audience, I think that is a good thing for the campaign,” said one former campaign official. “He obviously misses interacting with the public, interacting with the community and being out there as the American president.” 

Trump told reporters on Wednesday that his first rally since March 2 would take place in Tulsa, Okla., one week from Friday. He plans to hold rallies in the coming weeks in Arizona, Florida, Texas and North Carolina, despite a feud with the latter’s governor over social distancing measures that led to a change in location for the Republican National Convention in August.

It’s not yet clear what safety protocols would be put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, though Trump chafed at the prospect of convention attendees being required to spread out and wear masks.


“We will ensure that everyone who goes is safe, but no specific announcements on that front,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Wednesday, directing further questions to the campaign.

The campaign did not respond to questions about safety protocols.

After Thursday’s fundraiser in Dallas, Trump will hold similar events over the weekend at his property in Bedminster, N.J. Guests at both fundraisers, which are expected to bring in millions of dollars, will be tested for the coronavirus the day of the gathering.

Meanwhile, coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have spiked in some states that Trump plans to visit, including Florida, North Carolina, Texas and Arizona.

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciUS passes single-day record for new COVID-19 cases Overnight Health Care: Following debate, Biden hammers Trump on coronavirus | Study: Universal mask-wearing could save 130,000 lives | Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight Black Americans don't trust a COVID-19 vaccine — they have valid reasons why MORE, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said in an interview with “Good Morning America” on Wednesday that Americans should avoid congregating “in large numbers” as states begin to reopen.

But campaign officials argue that recent protests, where tens of thousands of people have gathered to speak out against police brutality and racial injustice, have provided an opening to begin holding large political events again.

Trump has long been described as someone who enjoys interacting with supporters outside the Beltway and feeds off the energy of his crowds. Sam Nunberg, a former Trump adviser, predicted that Trump’s poll numbers would rise after he hits the campaign trail.

“He is a very social creature by habit,” Nunberg said. “He does have a genuine connection with his supporters, but he’s got to grow it.”

White House and campaign officials view Trump’s presence as the most reliable way to energize voters, and the operation has faced challenges in the last three months with the candidate largely confined to the White House. 

While Trump and Republicans maintain a cash advantage over the Democrats, Biden nearly matched the Trump campaign’s fundraising haul in the first quarter of 2020, and the former vice president has enjoyed a steady lead in the polls even as he has been participating in campaign activities from his Delaware home amid the pandemic.

The Trump campaign has undergone a recent staffing shake-up in an effort to allay concerns from the president and some of his allies about the group’s preparedness to handle the homestretch of the race. Those anxieties have been exacerbated by Trump’s sinking poll numbers over the past month.

Bill Stepien, a former White House political adviser, was formally promoted to deputy campaign manager to provide additional support for campaign manager Brad ParscaleBradley (Brad) James ParscaleMORE, who is running a reelection bid for the first time.

Boris Epshteyn has returned to the campaign to advise coalitions after working as a conservative commentator for Sinclair Broadcast Group. And Jason Miller, who worked on the 2016 campaign, was brought back to serve as a senior adviser.

Ultimately, though, advisers say it is Trump who will influence the outcome in November, not his campaign staff. And while he is prone to making incendiary comments at rallies, his allies are hopeful that his return to arenas will energize his supporters and reset momentum.

“For his supporters it’s a morale boost because they really do love these rallies, they really do kind of hang on these rallies,” one source close to the campaign said. “They are the centerpiece of his campaign.”