by Hans Izaak Kriek*
More than one million people have applied for tickets to President Trump’s first scheduled rally since states began efforts to resume activities following weeks after the lockdown measures of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump confirmed this large numbers of people in an exclusive interview on Wednesday with Sean Hannity, Fox News anchor.
The rally, postponed to June 20 after initially being planned for June 19, will be Trump’s first in weeks. Applicants are required to sign a waiver releasing the Trump campaign from responsibility from possible exposure to the coronavirus.
President Trump declared during the Fox News interview that the coronavirus is ‘fading away’ as states continue to reopen. "We are starting up and it’s going to be very, very strong," Trump told host Sean Hannity at the tail end of a discussion of the economy. "We’re very close to a vaccine and we’re very close to therapeutics, really good therapeutics. But even without that, I don’t like to talk about that because it’s fading away. It’s going to fade away but having a vaccine would be really nice and that’s going to happen."
In a statement, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican, said the visit confirms the state is a ‘national example’ in responsibly and safely reopening. “We are honoured President Trump accepted our invitation to our great state. The President is making Oklahoma his first campaign stop since March 2, and his visit here confirms Oklahoma is the national example in responsibly and safe reopening. I’m excited to welcome President Trump to Tulsa on June 19 and for Oklahoma to show the world how we are a top 10 state.”
Later in the interview, Trump said that while the planned rally has drawn criticism over the apparent risk of spreading the virus, ‘nobody complained’ about the risk posted by large urban protests in recent weeks following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
And there is more news for Trump’s campaign. The Republican National Committee, RNC announces that Jacksonville will be the new host city of the GOP convention. The Florida city will host a series of convention keynotes events in August, including President Trump’s prime time speech to accept the GOP nomination. The gathering is expected to be a multi-night event, according to a person familiar with the planning.
“We’re thrilled to celebrate this momentous occasion in the great city of Jacksonville,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna Mc Daniel said recently in a statement. “not only does Florida hold a special place in President Trump’s heart as his home state, but it is crucial in the path to victory in 2020. We look forward to bringing this great celebration and economic boon to the Sunshine State in just a few short months.” The party’s big events will be broadcast from Jacksonville, a city led by Republicans in Trump’s newly adopted home state, which also is led by the Republican party.
The decision to choose Jacksonville as the site of the RNC events is another sign of Florida’s outsized significance in the coming presidential election. The Trump campaign has made Florida a cornerstone of the president’s strategy.
Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Florida by fewer than 113.000 votes four years ago. Recent polls have shown Trump and Biden close to even as Biden has pulled ahead in other states. A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed Trump in a statistical tie with former Vice President Joe Biden, barely leading the presumptive Democratic nominee 44 percent to 43 percent, within the survey’s 2.9 percentage point margin of error.
Three Fox News polls released recently also showed Trump trailing Biden in Ohio, Wisconsin and Arizona, where Senator Martha McSally, Republican now faces an uphill battle to reelection. Trump caught a big break on Friday, however, when the Labor Department reported the economy unexpectedly created 2.5 million jobs in May, the biggest one-month job increase in recent U.S. history. The president called it ‘a stupendous number’ and a ‘joyous’ development.
Trump seems convinced that the key to winning in November is to rev up and mobilise the base and that whichever party does the best job turning out its voters will win. During a recent lunch meeting with Senate Republicans he touted polling showing that Republican voters are more enthusiastic about voting for him than Democrats are voting for Biden.
Election day, November 3, is about four and a half months from now and it is still unpredictable what could happen during that time.
*International political journalist and author of the Dutch political book ‘De Patatbalie’ about the relation between media and politicians