- The president’s political advisers are looking to bring back his raucous campaign rallies as early as July, Insider has learned.
- Trump’s arena-sized events have been on hold since the nationwide lockdown from the coronavirus pandemic in early March, forcing the campaign to turn to digital programming as an alternative.
- A former Trump campaign aide said the return of rallies in 2020 would “be a massive indicator that life is getting back to normal.”
- The return of campaign rallies raises new security concerns for the president and his supporters because of the coronavirus pandemic and the prospect that peaceful political protests outside the events turn violent.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
President Donald Trump’s political advisers have been debating how to get him back in front of raucous arena-sized crowds for campaign rallies that could breathe new life into his embattled reelection effort, possibly as soon as next month, Insider has learned.
Trump’s campaign rallies, which frequently veered into violence during the Republican’s successful 2016 White House bid, halted in early March when the nation started going into lockdown to curb the coronavirus pandemic. As states began reopening last month, Trump’s advisers started talking about how to transition away from the online events they’d used as a replacement and get the president headlining big rallies again.
Those plans are still moving forward, even as protests, looting, and violence engulf the country in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis. Trump’s campaign, in fact, sees an opening to tout a law-and-order message that it hopes can connect with suburbanites, independents, and senior citizens — a strategy they’d keep driving home with public rallies.
“The president’s base is confused as to why even for a brief moment he’s been a captive in the people’s house,” one longtime Trump adviser said. “We all understand the Secret Service operates with an abundance of caution. It’s not that hard to explain. Still, the base is kind of wondering, ‘What’s next?'”
Trump officials have talked about restarting the rallies in July and are looking at following some of the same protocols being used by Cabinet officials who have resumed travel, according to several officials familiar with the discussions. That includes measuring COVID-19 outbreak levels and whether the community the president would travel to has shown measurable signs of improvement, as well as a better understanding of the rules for social distancing.
Trump rallies a sign of life ‘getting back to normal’
Trump’s allies see the prospect of campaign rallies as an important signal to the country — and the president’s supporters — that the coronavirus pandemic is subsiding and the national lockdown is ending. It’s an especially important message given the economic fallout from COVID-19.
“I think he should get out there with the rallies as soon as possible,” Jason Miller, a former Trump 2016 campaign aide who remains close to the White House, said. “I know the campaign team is figuring out the way to construct that. Absolutely as soon as they can figure out how, he’s got to do that. That’ll be a massive indicator that life is getting back to normal when we see that.”
Official details about how the president plans to stage 2020 reelection rallies remain under wraps. A Trump campaign spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment, though an adviser who has spoken with the president in recent weeks said Trump was ready to get back before crowds of supporters. No formal plans have been drafted, the adviser said, adding that it would take only about a week to plan a rally.
Miller said the campaign was “still a ways from saying those are ready to go.” But he added that the simple fact they would even be happening in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic would be a big motivating force for the president’s supporters.
“As long as there’s thousands of people, and they have the Rolling Stones queued up, then it’s a Trump rally,” he said.
More campaign travel planned
Through March, Trump followed the lead of the nation’s governors in shutting down vast swaths of the country as the severity of the coronavirus pandemic grew. The president assumed control of the daily coronavirus press briefings from Vice President Mike Pence and turned them into the closest copy of a campaign rally that he could inside the White House, fighting with reporters for upward of two hours during the daily evening-news slots.
The president also has left the White House for official government-sanctioned events in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Florida — three states seen as critical to his 2020 effort.
More travel is coming up. Trump’s campaign has already planned a pair of fundraisers for later this month, according to a Politico report. A June 11 fundraiser in Dallas asks for $580,600 per couple. Trump’s campaign and the Secret Service are limiting the number of people who can attend to 25, according to a copy of the fundraiser invite obtained by Business Insider and a Republican donor familiar with the event.
Another fundraising event on June 13 is scheduled for the president’s Bedminster, New Jersey, private golf club.
Security concerns shadow Trump trips, GOP convention
The return of campaign rallies also raises security concerns for the president and his supporters, from both the coronavirus pandemic and the prospect that peaceful political protests turn violent.
“I’m very concerned that your presence may cause security problems for our state,” Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, told Trump on Monday during a phone call with the nation’s governors, according to audio obtained by Business Insider. Trump plans to tour a nasal swab manufacturing plant there on Friday.
Public-health concerns are also looming over the 2020 Republican National Convention, where the Republican Party is set to formally nominate Trump for president again. Trump has faced off against North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in the past few weeks, threatening to move the convention.
A spokeswoman for Cooper said Trump demanded that Cooper allow the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, to go on with no face masks and no social distancing, a prospect which could endanger the thousands of Republican delegates and officials running the GOP — and Trump himself.
The RNC gave North Carolina a Wednesday deadline to respond. The convention is scheduled for the end of August, but as of last week, even top-ranking officials in the party and close to Trump were still unsure what would happen. They’re all waiting on a clear answer from Trump, one adviser said.