Trump rally highlights vulnerabilities heading into election

Trump critica las protestas antirracistas y defiende su gestión de la pandemia en un mitin a medio gas

AP - President Donald Trump's return to the campaign trail was designed to show strength and enthusiasm heading into the critical final months before an election that will decide whether he remains in the White House.

Instead, his weekend rally in Oklahoma highlighted growing vulnerabilities and crystallised a divisive reelection message that largely ignores broad swaths of voters — independents, suburban women and people of colour — who could play a crucial role in choosing Trump or Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

The lower-than-expected turnout at the comeback rally, in particular, left Trump fuming.

"There's really only one strategy left for him, and that is to propel that rage and anger and try to split the society and see if he can have a tribal leadership win here," former Trump adviser-turned-critic Anthony Scaramucci said on CNN's "Reliable Sources."

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Trump holds Tulsa rally
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Trump holds Tulsa rally
TULSA, OK - JUNE 20: President Donald J. Trump speaks during a "Make America Great Again!" rally at the BOK Center on Saturday, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, OK. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Protesters march and protest near the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 20,2020. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by SETH HERALD / AFP) (Photo by SETH HERALD/AFP via Getty Images)
Members of the National Guard stand in formation as protesters march and protest near the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 20,2020. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by SETH HERALD / AFP) (Photo by SETH HERALD/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman hands out face masks to Trump supporters ahead of US President Donald Trump's campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma June 20,2020. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by SETH HERALD / AFP) (Photo by SETH HERALD/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump wait to enter the gates leading to the BOK Center ahead of his campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma June 20,2020. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by SETH HERALD / AFP) (Photo by SETH HERALD/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump enter the gates leading to the BOK Center ahead of his campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma June 20,2020. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by SETH HERALD / AFP) (Photo by SETH HERALD/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of Donald Trump wait to enter the gates leading to the BOK Center ahead of US President Donald Trump's campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma June 20,2020. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by SETH HERALD / AFP) (Photo by SETH HERALD/AFP via Getty Images)
TULSA, OK - JUNE 20: President Donald J. Trump arrives for a "Make America Great Again!" rally at the BOK Center on Saturday, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, OK. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
TULSA, OK - JUNE 20: Supporters wait in lines before President Donald J. Trump arrives for a "Make America Great Again!" rally at the BOK Center on Saturday, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, OK. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
TULSA, OK - JUNE 20: A supporter sits alone in the top sections of seating as Vice President Mike Pence speaks before President Donald J. Trump arrives for a "Make America Great Again!" rally at the BOK Center on Saturday, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, OK. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
TULSA, OK - JUNE 20: People wear face masks and shields as they sell Trump Campaign merchandise before President Donald J. Trump arrives for a "Make America Great Again!" rally at the BOK Center on Saturday, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, OK. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
TULSA, USA - JUNE 20: U.S. President Donald Trump meet his supporters at his ''Make America Great Again'' rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States on June 20, 2020. (Photo by Kyle Mazza/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
TULSA, USA - JUNE 20: U.S. President Donald Trump meet his supporters at his ''Make America Great Again'' rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States on June 20, 2020. (Photo by Kyle Mazza/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
TULSA, USA - JUNE 20: U.S. President Donald Trump meet his supporters at his ''Make America Great Again'' rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States on June 20, 2020. (Photo by Kyle Mazza/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
A Trump supporter walks by a police line in Tulsa, Oklahoma where Donald Trump held a campaign rally earlier on June 20, 2020. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Police officers march towards the crowd where Trump supporters and anti-Trump protestors now roam together in Tulsa, Oklahoma where Donald Trump held a campaign rally earlier on June 20, 2020. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
TULSA, OKLAHOMA - JUNE 20: Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump react as he concludes speaking at a campaign rally at the BOK Center, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump is holding his first political rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic at the BOK Center today while infection rates in the state of Oklahoma continue to rise. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
A supporter wears a "It's OK to be White" shirt as he listens to US President Donald Trump speak during a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) / ALTERNATE CROP (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
The upper section of the arena is seen partially empty as US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
A young supporter wears a Trump 2020 mask as he listens to US President Donald Trump speak during a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters cheer as they listen to US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
Delano Frazir a "Black Lives Matter" protestor holds a sign in front of National Guards in Tulsa, Oklahoma where Donald Trump holds a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Protestors for "Black Lives Matter" hold a caricature of the president as they demonstrate in Tulsa, Oklahoma where Donald Trump holds a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
National Guards form a line in front of "Black Lives Matter" protestors making rude gestures towards Trump supporters accross the line in Tulsa, Oklahoma where Donald Trump holds a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
TULSA, OK - JUNE 20: Demonstrators stand in garbage at a security fence before President Donald Trump's campaign rally on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump is scheduled to hold his first political rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic at the BOK Center while infection rates in the state of Oklahoma continue to rise. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
TULSA, OKLAHOMA - JUNE 20: MyPillow founder Michael J. Lindell (L) greets people before the start of a campaign rally for U.S. President Donald Trump at the BOK Center, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump is holding his first political rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic at the BOK Center on Saturday while infection rates in the state of Oklahoma continue to rise. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
TULSA, OKLAHOMA - JUNE 20: Eric Trump and his wife Lara Trump address the crowd gathered at a campaign rally for U.S. President Donald Trump at the BOK Center, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump is holding his first political rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic at the BOK Center on Saturday while infection rates in the state of Oklahoma continue to rise. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
TULSA, OKLAHOMA - JUNE 20: A supporter sits in the upper seats during a campaign rally for U.S. President Donald Trump at the BOK Center, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump is holding his first political rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic at the BOK Center on Saturday while infection rates in the state of Oklahoma continue to rise. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump waves as he steps off Air Force One at Tulsa International Airport on his way to his campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
TULSA, OKLAHOMA - JUNE 20: Supporters participate in a prayer during a campaign rally for U.S. President Donald Trump at the BOK Center, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump is holding his first political rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic at the BOK Center on Saturday while infection rates in the state of Oklahoma continue to rise. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
A supporter of the police cheers towards officers at a check point before a campaign rally with US President Donald Trump at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
TULSA, OKLAHOMA - JUNE 20: Supporters participate in the Pledge of Allegiance during a campaign rally for U.S. President Donald Trump at the BOK Center, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump is holding his first political rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic at the BOK Center on Saturday while infection rates in the state of Oklahoma continue to rise. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
TULSA, OKLAHOMA - JUNE 20: Supporters participate in the Pledge of Allegiance during a campaign rally for U.S. President Donald Trump at the BOK Center, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump is holding his first political rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic at the BOK Center on Saturday while infection rates in the state of Oklahoma continue to rise. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
TORRANCE, CA - JUNE 20: A woman turns away in frustration after arguing with a supporter of President Donald Trump at a pro-police rally as demonstrators across the nation protest racism and police brutality on June 20, 2020 in Torrance, California. The president has attracted criticism for threatening to use police tactics against protesters near his campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma today, his first since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and for shunning coronavirus safety measures called for by healthcare professionals. COVID-19 cases are accelerating in Tulsa and in California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom this week issued a statewide order to wear face coverings. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
TULSA, OKLAHOMA - JUNE 20: Merchandise vendors wear masks while selling campaign gear during a rally for U.S. President Donald Trump at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump is holding his first political rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic at the BOK Center on Saturday while infection rates in the state of Oklahoma continue to rise. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
TULSA, OKLAHOMA - JUNE 20: Supporters wait for the start of a campaign rally for U.S. President Donald Trump at the BOK Center, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump is holding his first political rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic at the BOK Center on Saturday while infection rates in the state of Oklahoma continue to rise. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
TULSA, OKLAHOMA - JUNE 20: Eric Trump attends a campaign rally for his father U.S. President Donald Trump at the BOK Center, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump is holding hold his first political rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic at the BOK Center on Saturday while infection rates in the state of Oklahoma continue to rise. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 20:President Donald Trump walks in the rain toward Marine One after stopping to speak to the media on the South Lawn of the White House as he prepares to depart for a rally in Tulsa, OK, on June 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. The rally is Trump's first in months since the coronavirus lockdown and his campaign acknowledged that six staff members had tested positive for the virus during routine screening. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)
Black Lives Matter protesters (R) face off with a supporter of US President Donald Trump near the entrance to a rally that US President Donald Trump will hold later in the evening at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
TULSA, OK - JUNE 20: A Pro-conservative supporter displays a message on his shirt prior to a campaign rally for President Donald Trump at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump is scheduled to hold his first political rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic at the BOK Center on Saturday while infection rates in the state of Oklahoma continue to rise. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
TULSA, OK - JUNE 20: A Donald Trump supporter holds a sign in support prior to a campaign rally for President Donald Trump at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump is scheduled to hold his first political rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic at the BOK Center on Saturday while infection rates in the state of Oklahoma continue to rise. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
Tulsa Police take Sheila Buck into custody near an entrance to a security checkpoint for a rally with US President Donald Trump this evening at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
TULSA, OKLAHOMA - JUNE 20: Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather to attend a campaign rally at the BOK Center, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump is scheduled to hold his first political rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic at the BOK Center on Saturday while infection rates in the state of Oklahoma continue to rise. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - People wait to attend a rally with US President Donald Trump this evening at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
TULSA, OKLAHOMA - JUNE 20: Veteran Richard Saul carries a sign that reads "Dump Trump" as a member of the Oklahoma National Guard stands nearby ahead of a U.S. President Donald Trump campaign rally at the BOK Center, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump is scheduled to hold his first political rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic at the BOK Center on Saturday while infection rates in the state of Oklahoma continue to rise. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
TULSA, OK - JUNE 20: A Donald Trump supporter shows his socks that depict President Donald Trump prior to a campaign rally for President Donald Trump on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump is scheduled to hold his first political rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic at the BOK Center on Saturday while infection rates in the state of Oklahoma continue to rise. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
TULSA, OKLAHOMA - JUNE 20: Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather to attend a campaign rally at the BOK Center, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. President Trump is scheduled to hold his first political rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic at the BOK Center on Saturday while infection rates in the state of Oklahoma continue to rise. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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The president did not offer even a token reference to national unity in remarks that spanned more than an hour and 40 minutes at his self-described campaign relaunch as the nation grappled with surging coronavirus infections, the worst unemployment since the Great Depression and sweeping civil unrest.

Nor did Trump mention George Floyd, the African American man whose death at the hands of Minnesota police late last month sparked a national uprising over police brutality. But he did add new fuel to the nation's culture wars, defending Confederate statues while making racist references to the coronavirus, which originated in China and which he called "kung flu." He also said Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who came to the U.S. as a refugee, "would like to make the government of our country just like the country from where she came, Somalia."

Trump won the presidency in 2016 with a similar red-meat message aimed largely at energising conservatives and white working-class men. But less than four months before early voting begins in some states, there are signs that independents and educated voters — particularly suburban women — have turned against him. Republican strategists increasingly believe that only a dramatic turnaround in the economy can revive his reelection aspirations.

Trump critica las protestas antirracistas y defiende su gestión de la pandemia en un mitin a medio gas

"It's bad," said Republican operative Rick Tyler, a frequent Trump critic. "There's literally nothing to run on. The only thing he can say is that Biden is worse."

But the day after Trump's Tulsa rally, the president's message was almost an afterthought as aides tried to explain away a smaller-than-expected crowd that left the president outraged.

The campaign had been betting big on Tulsa.

Trump's political team spent days proclaiming that more than 1 million people had requested tickets. They also ignored health warnings from the White House coronavirus task force and Oklahoma officials, eager to host an event that would help him move past the civil rights protests and the coronavirus itself.

His first rally in 110 days was meant to be a defiant display of political force to help energise Trump's spirits, try out some attacks on Biden and serve as a powerful symbol of American's re-opening.

Instead, the city fire marshal's office reported a crowd of just less than 6,200 in the 19,000-seat BOK Centre, and at least six staff members who helped set up the event tested positive for the coronavirus. The vast majority of the attendees, including Trump, did not wear face masks as recommended by the Trump administration's health experts.

Trump's team scrambled to blame the media

After the rally, the president berated aides over the turnout. He fumed that he had been led to believe he would see huge crowds in deep-red Oklahoma, according to two White House and campaign officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly about private conversations.

There was no sign of an imminent staff shakeup, but members of Trump's inner circle angrily questioned how campaign manager Brad Parscale and other senior aides could so wildly overpromise and underdeliver, according to the officials.

Publicly, Trump's team scrambled to blame the crowd size on media coverage and protesters outside the venue, but the small crowds of pre-rally demonstrators were largely peaceful. Tulsa police reported just one arrest Saturday afternoon.

It's unclear when Trump will hold his next rally.

Before Oklahoma, the campaign had planned to finalise and announce its next rally this week. Trump is already scheduled to make appearances Tuesday in Arizona and Thursday in Wisconsin. Both are major general election battlegrounds.

At least one swing state governor, meanwhile, says Trump would not be welcome to host a rally in her state amid the pandemic.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said she "would think very seriously about" trying to block Trump from hosting a rally there if he wanted to.

"We know that congregating without masks, especially at an indoor facility, is the worst thing to do in the midst of a global pandemic," Whitmer said in an interview before the Oklahoma event, conceding that she wasn't aware of the specific legal tools she had available to block a prospective Trump rally. "I just know we have limitations on the number of people that can gather and that we're taking this seriously."

Biden's campaign, meanwhile, seized on a fresh opportunity to poke at the incumbent president, suggesting that Trump "was already in a tailspin" because of his mismanagement of the pandemic and civil rights protests.

"Donald Trump has abdicated leadership and it is no surprise that his supporters have responded by abandoning him," Biden spokesperson Andrew Bates said.

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