President Trump, looking to stage a political comeback analysts say is within his grasp, touted progress toward a coronavirus vaccine and support for law enforcement during a White House rally Saturday that marked his first public event since testing positive for COVID-19.
“You can’t count the guy out,” Republican strategist Mike Dennehy said. “It’s a mistake to do that.”
Trump appeared healthier and in good spirits Saturday as he addressed hundreds of supporters who gathered on the South Lawn to cheer him on just nine days after he was diagnosed with the highly contagious virus.
“I’m feeling great,” a maskless Trump proclaimed as questions remained over when he was last tested for the virus and if he was still at risk of spreading it.
The president pledged to “eradicate” COVID-19 and said a “vaccine is coming out very, very quickly, in record time.”
He touted his support for law enforcement in the event that was billed as a “peaceful protest for law and order.” And he spoke of building economic opportunity in communities of color to a crowd that included conservative activist Candace Owens and members of “Blexit,” a group that encourages Black people to leave the Democratic Party.
“Sleepy Joe Biden’s betrayed Black and Latino Americans,” Trump said in a knock on the Democratic nominee. “If you think he can run this country, you’re wrong.”
The president’s remarks clocked in at under 20 minutes — far shorter than his typical hour-plus speeches at campaign events.
But the official White House event had all the trappings of his signature re-election rallies, from the political jabs, to the sea of red “Make America Great Again” baseball caps, to the chants of “Four more years!” and “We love you!”
Trump, who’s been eager to resume campaigning since being sidelined by his coronavirus diagnosis, is scheduled to return with rallies on Monday in Florida, Tuesday in Pennsylvania and Wednesday in Iowa.
“We’re starting very big with our rallies,” Trump said. “Because we cannot allow our country to become a socialist country.”
Dennehy said Trump is doing “the right thing” by resuming the rallies and urged him to get out “every single day in all of the battleground states.”
“He needs to control the narrative of the campaign. He’s lost it and he needs to get it back. That means getting back on offense with the economy, law and order and his outsider message,” Dennehy, a veteran of John McCain’s and Rick Perry’s presidential bids, said. “If he can do that, he can claw his way back.”
Trump faces an unfavorable map just over three weeks before Election Day. Several national polls this week, including one from the Herald, showed Biden with a double-digit lead. Analysts at the University of Virginia Center for Politics recently shifted key swing states away from Trump, with Iowa, Ohio and Georgia now listed as toss-ups while Wisconsin and Arizona now lean Democratic.
“The national picture just hasn’t improved for Trump,” Center for Politics analyst J. Miles Coleman said. But he said Trump has a shot at a comeback if he can turn out nontraditional voters and “keep the focus on the economy.”
Veteran pollster John Zogby said Trump needs to continue pushing the message of Democrats as socialists — a note the president hit repeatedly on Saturday.
“What he can do is really energize his voters by saying, ‘It’s getting close. Do you really want socialism or do you really want someone that doesn’t have the mental capacity?'” Zogby said. “It can work. I really believe this is still competitive.”
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