AIR FORCE ONE — President Trump hit all of his trademark lines, warning the audience in Yuma, Arizona, that “murderers” and “rapists” were desperate to cross from Mexico into the United States before accusing his election opponent of wanting to open the borders.
But Tuesday’s appearance was notable not just for the message, but for the medium — an energized president bringing an adoring crowd to its feet in a sweltering airport hangar.
Aboard Air Force One later, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who had been with the president on Monday’s visits to Minnesota and Wisconsin, said, “Yesterday was the first time that I’d seen the mojo back. And then today definitely.”
The air of jubilation on the president’s plane was in stark contrast to Trump’s disastrous appearance in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When the president descended the steps of Air Force One after returning to Joint Base Andrews on a late Saturday night in June, his red tie dangled untied from his unbuttoned shirt collar — a strikingly disheveled look for a man known for a work uniform of crisp white shirt and knotted neckwear.
It reflected the mood of the night. Coverage of what was supposed to be a triumphant return to arena rallies in the age of pandemic was dominated by empty seats and reports of staffers laid low with COVID-19.
A reset planned for a month later, using an airport hangar in New Hampshire, was abandoned amid bad weather and fresh concerns about turnout.
The result was a headache for aides. Not only are rallies crucial to the campaign’s data-gathering operation, collecting mobile phone numbers from attendees, and a chance to win national headlines, but they serve to connect the president with his people, maintain his focus and keep up morale. Without them, his frustration grows.
“President Trump feeds off the energy of his supporters, and whenever he gets to be around them, it’s almost like his batteries get recharged,” said a former White House official.
That energy was on display in Yuma on Tuesday, where more than 500 people packed into a hangar decorated with giant Stars and Stripes flags. Although most wore masks, social distancing was not in evidence.
The event was ticketed, just like the arena rallies of old. And Trump’s campaign soundtrack played, sending Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” and Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” booming through the air.
The crowd rose to its feet as he appeared, and he quickly urged them to sit.
“This is like a test he said,” of the Arizona heat. “Do you think Joe Biden could do that?”
He had just come from inspecting a 30-foot-high portion of border wall set up in another part of the hangar, and he quickly hit his theme of attacking the Democratic Party’s record on immigration.
“Biden’s plan is the most radical, extreme, reckless, and dangerous immigration plan ever put forward by a major party candidate,” he said. Then he brought the excitable crowd back to its feet by telling them how he had ended the Obama administration’s practice of “catch and release” of people crossing the border.
“So we have people coming into this country, some great people, some really bad people too,” he said. “And I mean murderers, and I mean rapists. I mean really bad people, and they don’t get in, and they don’t get back.”
After 42 minutes of campaign rhetoric, he was back on Air Force One and bound for home.
The event was part of a distraction tour, taking Trump around the country during the week of the Democratic National Convention. Officials said the aim was to illustrate how Biden was holed up at home, due to deliver his acceptance speech from an empty conference center nearby.
Officials now are wondering how the president can again use the energy he draws from a crowd to enliven the Republican convention next week.
The president has announced that he will be speaking live from the White House’s South Lawn.
Meadows would not be drawn on whether there would be a crowd to cheer on the president and provide a contrast to the prerecorded, virtual fare offered by the Democrats.
But he said, “I would hope that there would be some individuals there for there to be that interaction back and forth.”
Author: Rob Crilly
Source: Washington Examiner: Trump has campaign mojo back with airport rallies