TULSA, Okla. — President Donald Trump used his comeback rally to try to define the upcoming election as a choice between national heritage and left-wing radicalism in an over 90-minute speech to reporters in Tulsa Saturday.
The rally Saturday night in Tulsa was meant to restart his reelection effort less than five months before the November election, hosting his first rally in 110 days.
“The choice in 2020 is very simple,” Trump said. “Do you want to bow before the left-wing mob, or do you want to stand up tall and proud as Americans?”
After a three-month break from rallies, Trump returned to regular themes, including boasts about the pre-pandemic economy and complaints about the media.
In the hours before the rally, crowds were significantly lighter than expected, and campaign officials scrapped plans for Trump to speak at an overflow space outdoors.
Trump tried to explain away the crowd size by blaming the media for scaring people and by insisting there were protesters outside who were “doing bad things.” Hundreds of demonstrators flooded the city’s downtown streets and blocked traffic at times.
Before the rally, Trump’s campaign disclosed that that six staff members who were helping set up for the event had tested positive for the coronavirus. Campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said neither the affected staffers nor anyone who was in immediate contact with them would attend the event.
During the rally, Trump leaned in hard on cultural issues, including the push to tear down statues and rename military bases honoring Confederate figures in the wake of nationwide protests about racial injustice.
“The unhinged left-wing mob is trying to vandalize our history, desecrate our monuments, our beautiful monuments,” Trump said. “They want to demolish our heritage so they can impose their new repressive regime in its place.”
City officials had expected a crowd of 100,000 people or more in downtown Tulsa. The crowd that gathered was far less than that, though the rally, being broadcast on cable, also targeted voters in battleground states such as Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.
There were social media claims that people had registered for the rally with no intention of attending. Murtaugh, dismissing the potential impact, said “leftists always fool themselves into thinking they’re being clever,” and he noted that rallies are general admission, with first come, first served.
The president’s campaign tried to point fingers elsewhere over the smaller-than-expected crowds, accusing protesters of blocking access to metal detectors and preventing people from entering the rally.
The campaign handed out masks and hand sanitizer, but there was no requirement that participants use them. Participants also underwent a temperature check.
In May’s FEC fundraising reports, President Trump was outraised by Joe Biden in May, taking in $74 million for his reelection, but he maintains a sizable advantage in cash on hand over the presumptive Democratic nominee.
The Trump re-election, which includes fundraising by the Republican National Committee, on Saturday reported its total days after Biden and Democrats said they had amassed nearly $81 million last month for his White House bid.
Trump reported having $265 million in the bank at the end of May. Biden, for his part, reported having just over $82 million at the same point.
Trump’s campaign announced this week that it raised $14 million last Sunday, which was the president’s birthday.
Trump’s campaign has begun wide-scale general election ads, spending about $24 million on television and digital spots over the past month, but it has come as the president’s standing in polls have taken a hit.