US President Trump and the masses, that’s the greatest love. In the hot phase of the campaign that is now beginning, however, he has hardly been able to use his best mobilization instrument so far. Nevertheless, Trump has a decisive advantage.
By Katrin Brand, ARD Studio Washington
They shout “USA! USA!”, They demand “Four more years!”, Another four years, and when the man at the lectern “Fake News!” rumbles, then they turn to the fenced media block, boo and show the “lie press” the thumb down. You have to have experienced that once, as a reporter, when thousands of people stare threateningly at command. Not funny.
President Trump and the masses, that’s the greatest love. The people in the red caps feel accepted and recognized. And he can be cleaned and anointed in the crowd by the bath. For him it is confirmation that he really belongs in this White House because the silent majority of the country loves him so much.
The man for the big gatherings
“This is not a president by the fireplace for talks,” said Republican camp policy advisor John Barbender, “this is not a president by press conference.” Trump is a “rally president,” Barbender said in the USA Today newspaper, “A president for the major gatherings.”
And that’s what sets him apart from his rival Joe Biden from the Democrats: Trump electrifies, Biden doesn’t. Trump is elected by his followers to stay in office. Biden is elected to prevent Trump from remaining in office, according to recent surveys.
But you also say that the displeasure of the Americans is great at the moment. Two-thirds of U.S. citizens are not satisfied with the way Trump acts in the corona crisis. And when it comes to election day itself, Biden has been clearly ahead for weeks, even in the competitive “Battleground States”. Even the deeply dark Republican Texas seems to be shaking. But, the election researchers also warn, the voters who have now turned away from Trump can turn back to him very quickly.
Trump opens the election campaign
And so the president has now opened the election campaign on several fronts: he publishes TV spots that show Biden as either senile or dangerously negligent in dealing with crime. He returns to his daily corona briefings to show that he is in control of the situation. And he recognizes – at least pro forma – that the virus is a real danger. He even supposedly always has a mask with him now.
However, he still cannot use his most important instrument for mobilization: the election campaign rally. In the pandemic, the president is stuck in the White House. Like everyone else, he can’t really get out. Sometimes a visit to the car factory, where ventilators are now manufactured, sometimes a short trip to Baltimore to commemorate heroes on Memorial Day. Or over the weekend on one of his golf courses, that’s all there is. That makes him pretty angry with what you read. The president, it seems, takes the virus personally.
Previous rally attempts went wrong
His attempts to recharge himself with the energy of his fans on the big stage went wrong. At his “Keep America Great” rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the expected crowds failed to materialize. The longing for Trump was not as great as the fear of the virus. A shortly planned major gig in New Hampshire was canceled due to a severe weather warning – if that was really the reason.
Until the end, however, Trump clung to the hope that he would at least get a real coronation fair. The Republicans had originally planned to set up the grand show stairs for him in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the end of August. However, at the end of May, the North Carolina Democratic Governor pointed out that the event had to be smaller because of the corona rules. In the end, the Republican Party leadership decided to leave part of the party convention in Charlotte, but to move the main event to Jacksonville, Florida. Trump was supposed to give his “I accept the nomination” speech there, his kick-off for the election campaign.
Trump still has a decisive advantage
While the Democrats decentralized and largely outsourced their congress to virtual space at an early stage, the Republicans apparently hoped that the virus could, as the President has indicated, simply disappear. Instead, Florida became a hotspot. Chuck Grassley, 86, and Lamar Alexander, 80, two very old Republican warriors, changed their minds and signed off.
The gut feeling of the president was also ready on Thursday: It was not the right time for this, said Donald Trump, the major event in Jacksonville would be canceled. He would give another kind of party speech, on a smaller scale, in Charlotte.
It seems impossible at the moment that major events could even take place before the election. Joe Boden could use that more. Trump, however, has an invaluable advantage: he has the undivided attention of all media, at all times. Because he is the president and because he is Donald Trump.