Trump’s re-election campaign off to a wobbly start

Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 20th was to be the big event that kicked off his re-election campaign. Oklahoma is a deep Republican state so choosing it had to be for reasons other than hoping to win its electoral votes in November, since that seemed to be assured. The more likely reason was that it would be easy in such a state to draw tens of thousands of enthusiastic Trump supporters to a packed stadium and overflow area to show how beloved the Dear Leader was.

But the wheels came off that effort rather quickly. First, the initial date of June 19th was the date celebrated by the black community as the real end of slavery and his holding a rally that would be full of his racist, white nationalist, and xenophobic supporters must have struck even some of his similar-minded campaign staff as a bit much. So it was switched to the next day. But it was too late because attention was now focused on the fact that in 1921 Tulsa was the scene of one of the worst massacres of black people in America and that ugly history was then papered over. That story dominated the news.

Then the actual rally was a bust with only 6,200 people showing up in the 19,000 seat stadium and the outdoor stage for the expected overflow crowd having to be dismantled in full view of the media. Many reasons have been given for this. One is that his campaign was outsmarted by young people on Tik-Tok and K-pop who ordered lots of tickets with no intention of showing up, thus fooling the campaign into boasting that they expected over a million people. Campaign staff vigorously disputed this theory because being outsmarted by largely teenagers does not look good but that alternatives, that people were scared away by the pandemic or that there was no enthusiasm for the rally, did not reflect well on Trump or his supporters.

After that debacle, the campaign scheduled another rally for today in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to re-ignite the campaign. The choice of this state is curious because it has only four electoral college votes (out of 538) and it has voted for the Democratic candidate in six out of the last seven presidential elections, including in 2016 when Hillary Clinton narrowly beat him. Maybe Trump smarts from that narrow loss and wanted to win it this time, even though current polls show Biden leading there.

But whatever the reason for the choice, yesterday the Trump campaign said that the rally was cancelled and would be re-scheduled for a week or two later. The reason given was that a tropical storm was due to hit the area. The Trump campaign had moved it outdoors to an airport tarmac from its initial indoor venue because of coronavirus concerns and maybe they thought that the sight of wet and bedraggled people sheltering or fleeing from the rain would not be a good look.

But that reason does not really hold up. It is true that tropical storm Fay is hitting the east coast but according to NOAA, its projected path is missing New Hampshire and passing to the west and would be in Canada by early afternoon, while the rally site is on the east coast of the state. In fact the weather forecast for Portsmouth for this evening seems to be ideal for an outdoor rally.

But not to worry! Like with his earlier attempt when he got caught lying about a hurricane hitting Alabama in 2019 (that is now called, of course,‘Sharpiegate’), we can expect Trump to show an alternative NOAA map with a new path added with a Sharpie pen showing how the storm would hit Portsmouth at exactly the time of the rally.

In the past, Trump has sneered at bad weather.

So why the postponement, since these things are not easy to schedule? One reason may be that the Tik-Tok and K-pop armies had mobilized fake ticket reservations again. . Even author Joyce Carol Oates said her cat had ordered 10 tickets. Another possibility is that even allowing for the fake reservations, campaign staff felt that the response from his supporters would be underwhelming again and some of them had expressed fears of another debacle of empty seats. New Hampshire is a sparsely populated state. Portsmouth itself has just about 21,000 people. Drawing a big crowd there would be a challenge at the best of times but given the public’s growing disapproval of Trump’s handling of the pandemic that has spread to even Republicans, it may have been seen as a mistake to hold it there.

It is not clear that the sizes of rallies are a very good indicator of a candidate’s popularity. But politicians and others do feel a sense of validation when a large and appreciative audience turns up for them. But with Trump there’s more. These rallies are like oxygen for him. He desperately needs adoring masses to maintain his self-image, as can be seen in the dejected way he returned to the White House after the Tulsa debacle. He looked like a loser.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that while his die-hard supporters are still loyal because they have a cult-like devotion to him, some of the others who voted for him before may be slowly deciding to abandon him. There are signs that this is the case. If his campaign cannot find a way to feed the need that he has to have large rallies, expect him to lash out even more than usual.

Let’s hope that is the case.


  1. Matt G says

    I’m visiting family in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. I’m used to seeing bumper stickers, lawn signs, posters, etc., but now I’m seeing what appear to be homemade billboards and even flags that people have run up their flagpole. The level of mindless devotion on display here is scary.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Even for Trumpista-level delusion, acknowledging a tropical storm in New goddamn England must strain climate denialism.

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