The test results cast Trump’s risky decision to go ahead with an indoor rally that doctors fear turned into a super-spreader infectious event in an even worse light. They also show how the virus — now marching through southern and western states despite Trump’s insistence that the US has already “prevailed” in the fight — is having a disastrous impact on the “Great American Comeback” narrative at the heart of his reelection bid.
Trump, who described his remark as “semi-tongue in cheek,” continued to argue that the problem in the United States is not that the virus is so widespread, but that testing keeps discovering how deeply it has penetrated in the community.
“Instead of 25 million tests, let’s say we did 10 million tests, we’d look like we were doing much better because we’d have far fewer cases. You understand that. I wouldn’t do that, but I will say this: ee do so much more than other countries it makes us in a way look bad but actually we’re doing the right thing,” Trump said.
The comments seem to set off yet another new political storm that will further complicate attempts by the President’s campaign team to rebound after Saturday’s embarrassment. The campaign team is now considering smaller venues for Trump events — a move that would surely bruise the commander in chief’s ego, or outdoor locations where supporters might feel more comfortable.
Limits on campaigning would be intolerable for any President seeking reelection. For Trump, such a crimping of his style would be even worse, given the centrality of his big rallies to his political id and the morale boosting role they fulfill for a president who is an outsider in Washington.
A strong base
And Fox News said that Trump’s return to the trail secured its biggest Saturday night television audience in its history, suggesting that while some Trump fans might have been concerned about the virus, their absence from Tulsa was not down to diminished enthusiasm.
Trump has always defied political gravity — and the effect of months of stay-at-home orders and lockdowns makes it even more difficult than usual for political analysts to get a solid assessment on how much of the country now views the President.
Saturday night’s event was meant to send a signal that the worst of the danger from the pandemic has expired and that America is on the comeback trail. Instead, it suggested that even Trump’s supporters who elected not to show up in an indoor event that brought the risk of infection, may not yet believe the core message of their hero’s campaign.
With every chance that thousands more Americans die before Election Day, Trump must face the prospect that his denial and mismanagement of the pandemic that left the country ill prepared for a deadly public health crisis is becoming a millstone that his campaign may never be able to shake off.
The President’s response to a miserable 48 hours was typical — an all-out attack. His targeting of Biden and the Democrats, demonstrating his ferocious tenacity in a way that also hinted at concern in his inner circle.
The President’s team followed up with a new offensive against Biden’s health and mental faculties. They claimed that the former vice president’s decision to stick to convention and only sign up for the three official presidential debates in the fall — and not the extra encounters Trump is demanding — shows the former vice president has trepidation about taking on the President. The tactic was a return to the effort to define Biden as unfit to serve as President — that does not appear to be working, if battleground state polls are anything to go on.
On Tuesday, Trump will head to Arizona to tour a section of his border wall that was so fundamental to his appeal to conservative base supporters in his first presidential election campaign.
While the President is out of town, two of his top public health officials, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield and the government’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, will testify before a House committee on the increasingly grave situation in many states.
Trump will attempt to put the embarrassing scenes of Saturday night behind him when he addresses a “Students for Trump” event in Arizona.
Attendees have been told to bring face masks to the event but will not be forced to wear them.
Democrats are already seeking to exploit Trump’s remark about slowing testing in Oklahoma, portraying it as emblematic of a mismanaged effort to tackle a virus that caused a shutdown of the economy.
“Two nights ago in his diatribe, he told them to stop testing because the numbers were going up … I mean, my God,” Biden told a fundraising event, according to a pool report on Monday.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins contributed to this report.