President Trump’s plan to proceed with an indoor rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma didn’t strike me as a good idea. Daily Wuhan coronavirus infections have been increasing in Tulsa County. Earlier this week, they reached a new daily high of 71. Today, they reached 136, according to the Washington Post.
To make matters worse, six of Trump’s campaign staffers in Tulsa tested positive for COVID-19.
Moreover, it wasn’t clear to me what Trump hoped to gain from the rally. As I wrote, “there’s very little reason to believe that a June rally in Oklahoma, which Trump carried by 36 points in 2016, will have any effect on the outcome of this year’s election.”
Maybe Trump needed the adulation a rally provides. Maybe he wanted to thumb his nose at those who make a fetish of social distancing. . . until Black Lives Matter protesters take to the street.
Either desire would be understandable, but the potential risks of the Tulsa rally still seemed to outweigh the potential benefits.
Nonetheless, the rally went forward.
According to the Daily Caller, turnout was lower than expected. Trump rallies typically feature large overflow crowds that congregate outside the arena.
That was not the case tonight. The overflow crowd, if crowd is even the right word, was sufficiently small that the president and vice president, who had planned to address it before the indoor rally, decided not to.
What about indoors? The Washington Post claims there were many unfilled spots in the arena. I can’t tell for sure from watching the rally on television whether this is the case. However, it looks like there are a plenty of empty seats in the upper deck of the arena. (If I learn that this is not true, I’ll update this post.) The arena holds 19,199 people.
Reportedly, masks were to be handed out to those attending the rally. Maybe they were handed out, but only a small percentage (less than 5 percent) of the people I saw on television wore them.
Given the growing number of coronavirus infections in Tulsa County, we can’t conclude from the smaller than normal crowd at this rally that enthusiasm for Trump has diminished. Members of the large crowds Trump has drawn in the past didn’t risk getting this virus.
However, this rally always looked to me like a high risk, low reward proposition. The reward is turning out to be lower than expected.
Let’s hope the downside — infections and deaths — doesn’t materialize. It would be tragic if people were to die because of this rally, and Trump’s reelection campaign can ill afford that.
JOHN adds: Apparently the empty seats were the result of an organized campaign by Democrats to reserve tickets without any intention of showing up. Trump undoubtedly could have filled the arena with actual fans, and the campaign will need to guard against similar fraud in connection with future events.