WASHINGTON — Last weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Donald Trump voters told the world that they are not short on common sense, even if their favorite candidate is.
The Trump campaign had boasted that despite the coronavirus, which has kept many Americans at home, demand to see President Donald Trump was so high, it had given away a million tickets. The president would speak inside the 19,000-seat BOK Center and to an overflow crowd outdoors.
Instead, Trump voters stayed home in droves. The campaign didn’t fill the main room, so there was no overflow. For one hour and 45 minutes, Trump had the unusual (for him) experience of talking to thousands of hardcore fans, yes, but also thousands of empty seats.
Message to POTUS: They’re not that into you.
After weeks of being stuck at home, I know people who are ready to get on planes. I know people who are itching to return to crowded eateries and raucous sports venues. But I don’t know anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to spend four or five hours in an enclosed room packed with boisterous partisans who in their hearts believe the coronavirus is fake news.
Better to take up skydiving.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., a frequent Trump target, boasted on Twitter that the Trump campaign got punked by teens who signed up for tickets with no intention to show up. But the tickets aren’t really tickets, which is why the campaign offered a million “tickets” for a 19,000-seat arena.
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale rejected AOC’s scenario. He blamed the news outlets for pumping out “apocalyptic media coverage” about the health risks to attendees as well as anti-Trump protests that caused local businesses to board up.
I think the credit goes to Trump voters who heeded the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warnings about mass gatherings. The highest-risk events are, according to the CDC, “large-in person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least six-feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.” That’s shorthand for a Trump rally.
Trump voters also demonstrated more commonsense than anti-police protesters who took to American streets. Yes, the protests were outdoors, unlike the indoor Tulsa rally, but they were repeated regularly.
I talked to a Trump campaign official who said the lower-than-expected turnout could be a function of supporters’ concern for their safety given news reports of Tulsa businesses boarding up to protect against possible violence from anti-Trump protesters.
The campaign used precautions to avoid spreading the disease, such as temperature screening for attendees and providing ample hand sanitizer. Those who watched the speech on TV may have noticed that Trump had a separate microphone away from where earlier speakers stood.
At one point during the address, Trump told Tulsa that more testing means “you’re going to find more cases. So I said to my people, ‘Slow down the testing, please.'” That made the news. With 120,000 dead, he doesn’t seem to take the pandemic seriously.
A slowdown has not happened. Members of the president’s Coronavirus Task Force testified in the House on Tuesday that Trump never told them to slow down testing and they are working to increase the number of tests.
But there is no papering over Trump’s questionable humor and reckless decision to hold the rally as the U.S. death toll exceeded 120,000.
Trump is 74. Even if he wasn’t standing within six feet of his supporters, he should not have been in an enclosed arena with thousands of strangers. He’s the president of the United States.
Vice President Mike Pence also spoke in Tulsa. Yes, Pence flew to Tulsa separately, spoke before Trump and then left on Air Force Two. But he stood in the same breath stew that Trump entered. Two campaign staffers who attended the rally later tested positive.
If, God forbid, the president and vice president were to fall seriously ill, or worse, guess who’s next in line? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Apparently, no one in the White House or reelection campaign managed to convince Trump that he should not risk the health of his supporters, his team or himself for a campaign rally — if they even tried.
There’s a reason Trump is down in national polls, with the RealClearPolitics polling average placing him with 40.6% of the vote, 10 points below former Vice President Joe Biden’s 50.6%.
His task force has done an amazing job fighting to curb the coronavirus, but Trump’s message has been that precautions are for wimps. And that’s just not healthy for the country or for Trump’s reelection prospects.
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