Presidential historian Tim Naftali told CNN that if President Donald Trump’s campaign was trying to hit the reset button with the Tulsa, Oklahoma rally on Saturday, it certainly failed.
“The campaign not only assumed that it would fill a 19,000-seat auditorium, but that they would fill an overflow area,” he explained. “In fact, they were so confident that they would fill the overflow area, that Air Force One took a little ride over it, so they could look at the gathering numbers of supporters. I believe it was on Air Force One that they decided since there weren’t any that they would cancel that overflow opportunity. So, this was a major, major defeat for the campaign.”
He said that whether the TikTok activism worked or not, the campaign couldn’t get people to a rally, and that’s a huge problem for the campaign moving forward with another rally in COVID-19-ravaged Arizona. Naftali explained that it has become clear that the campaign can’t get their people out because they lack enthusiasm and they are fearful of catching the coronavirus.
“So, there are two kinds of forms of denial that I think the campaign is in,” Naftali continued. “One is about the enthusiasm at the moment for the president, and two, it’s about fear of COVID.”
Washington Post editor David Swerdlick said that Trump is in a difficult situation because he’s gone so far right and outside of the mainstream that he has nowhere else to go without losing his supporters or losing whatever credibility he has left.
“So, last night we saw him out there, a little rusty, doing his greatest hits: Kung-Flu, in the recent weeks he’s been all over the map on that NFL issue, making wild claims about what he’s done for Black America,” he said. “I think the speech was just lackluster. As Tim said, it was a flop. I expect polls to tighten up before we hit November. This is still anybody’s race, but President Trump and his campaign team realized that their play really is continuing to divide, because the president’s behavior has been so consistently divisive and at times racist over the course of the last 3 1/2 years, that he just is not seen as a sort of credible interlocutor on race. He’s not an honest broker on race. And so he doesn’t have that avenue to pivot to, and now it’s about trying to turn out core supporters. You know, the one remark about they’re trying to do away with our heritage? I spent a few minutes last night thinking, who does the ‘our’ refer to? Last night he did not help himself.”
CNN host Boris Sanchez noted that Trump spent roughly 40 seconds talking about the victims of the coronavirus and about ten minutes talking about walking down the ramp at West Point’s graduation.
“He’s lost his mojo, at least for the moment,” said Naftali. “One of the things he was in 2016 was the shock and awe candidate, and now he’s pathetic. He’s trying to explain something that went wrong at West Point. The second issue is, you never make a joke about death. You never tongue-in-cheek about death. The way in which he talked about coronavirus is a reminder he still doesn’t take it seriously and is afraid of its political effects on its future.”
Swerdlick noted that one thing that caught him was that there was no discussion of conservative policies in a speech from a GOP president.
“No talk about not relying too much on government, no optimism, no stoicism, just this amalgamation of grievance and division that is his formula, and again that he stuck with,” Swerdlick said. “He has taken his party in a particular direction, and hat’s a departure from his Republican predecessors.”
Watch the conversation below: