WASHINGTON: The coronavirus pandemic had its first major impact on the 2020 US presidential campaign on Saturday night when organizers of a Trump rally had to cancel several events due to low attendance.
The rally in Tula, Oklahoma, was the first event of President Donald Trump’s second bid for the White House and the organizers announced that close to a million people had registered online.
Since the venue — Bank of Oklahoma Center — has a capacity for 17,000 to 19,000 people, the organizers had planned several events at a large space outside the center.
Both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were scheduled to address the outside crowd, but those events were canceled because “an anticipated overflow crowd did not materialize,” The New York Times reported on Sunday.
The Guardian, London, noted that the low turnout in Oklahoma was particularly disappointing because” it is a state he (Trump) won by 36 points in 2016” and “no Democratic presidential nominee has won this state since 1964.”
But CNN said that “the notion of packing supporters into a crowded arena amid a resurgence in coronavirus cases was always going to be an issue.”
And earlier Saturday, the president was informed that six of his campaign staffers in Tulsa had tested positive for coronavirus. “This was a wrinkle Trump had not anticipated when he insisted a rally be placed on his schedule,” CNN added, noting that it’s already late for rescheduling the planned events. The infections became the lead news in almost all US news bulletins, which apparently persuaded many expected participants to opt out. “Trump erupted when it was subsequently reported in the media — overtaking coverage of the rally itself,” media reports claimed.
One media outlet reported that as Air Force One lifted off, President Trump was informed that “only about 25 people had assembled in the overflow space the campaign had reserved five days earlier for an estimated 40,000 people.”
Two days before the rally, the president had promised his a record crowd to his supporters. He also warned those who had planned protests outside the venue, not to do so. “Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis. It will be a much different scene,” he tweeted.
But at the rally, he hinted that the same protesters might have been responsible for the low attendance. “You are warriors. We had some very bad people outside. They were doing bad things. But I really do appreciate it,” said Trump while explaining the empty seats.
The New York Times, however, reported that some Trump opponents might have been partially responsible for failing the rally. The report claimed that some popular singers had asked their fans to reserve tickets for the rally but not to show up. As advised, the fans reserved “hundreds of thousands of tickets” but did not attend the event.