WASHINGTON – With cheering crowds, inflated and false claims, and inflammatory partisan rhetoric, President Trump has taken up his favorite way of doing politics: entertaining his supporters in campaign-style demonstrations.
Standing in a sunset glow Tuesday night in an airport hangar in Winston-Salem, N.C., Trump looked and sounded like the political candidate he was in the pre-coronavirus era. Her playlist, with Village People’s “Y.M.C.A” as her inexplicable abandon song, was back.
And so was he, as he resurrected old obsessions, like the “perfect call”
It was his last stop on a tour that has so far included airport appearances in battlefield states such as Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arizona, and New Hampshire. The campaign did not announce the resumption of demonstrations. He just started programming them.
But Mr. Trump’s preference for in-person celebratory appearances is now plunging into the issue he likes least: the coronavirus pandemic restrictions. In Nevada, where the president had rallies in Reno and Las Vegas scheduled for this weekend, both events sank on Wednesday.
The Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority informed tenants who rented the hangar that the event that Mr. Trump had planned to hold on Saturday violated the state directive limiting rallies to 50 people.
“This has nothing to do with politics,” said Daren Griffin, president and chief executive of the airport authority. “We would have kept our tenants on the same level whether it was a Democratic or Republican rally or any other type of meeting.”
Campaign officials said the Las Vegas event was also canceled.
For months, Mr. Trump has been pushing to bring back his signature demonstrations and return to the campaign route, and officials have always assumed they would organize such events again in the last few months before Election Day, despite the number of cases of the virus. remained consistently high across much of the country.
“The people are ready,” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign. “People are ready to return to a more normal life.”
On Tuesday evening, for example, Trump supporters gathered to hear the president’s speech, many of them choosing not to wear masks or to practice social distancing while chanting “We! Love! You!” They had registered online for tickets, just like in the old days, and received face masks, temperature checks and hand sanitizer on site, which they were encouraged to use.
The campaign called it a “Great American Comeback” event. Despite North Carolina restrictions limiting outdoor gatherings to 50 people, thousands of people have gathered under the protected banner of political speech and state health authorities have not tried to stop them.
Campaign aides handed out signs that read “This is a peaceful protest,” a troll reference to what they believed was a free pass given to Black Lives Matter protesters who gathered in cities across the country over the summer after. the killing of George Floyd.
Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, defended the president’s right to hold demonstrations.
“People have the First Amendment right if they so choose to express their political opinion in the form of a peaceful protest,” he said at a news conference Wednesday. “If you are allowed to march in aggregate, you can also show up at a political demonstration.”
The crowd at the airport is smaller than the indoor arena events the president used to hold, but officials said setting up the hangar took less time to set up and was often less expensive to set up. scene.
“This is better than arenas, I have to say,” Mr. Trump said Tuesday night.
“I get off the plane, make a speech, I’m out of here,” he told supporters last week in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
A spokesperson for Trump’s Democratic rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., said the return of the demonstrations is in line with how the president has treated the coronavirus since March.
“This president’s contempt for experts and willful contempt for science has resulted in the needless deaths of thousands of Americans from Covid-19,” said T.J. Ducklo, a spokesperson for Biden. “Joe Biden will always put the health and safety of the American people first, and we have countless examples of why the same cannot be said for Donald Trump.”
Other Biden officials said they believe the plan to conduct the rallies will eventually backfire, because “real voters,” including the elderly, would be frightened by the images of crowds not wearing masks or walking away from society.
However, Trump’s campaign officials said they appreciated the contrast the demonstrations created between their campaign and Biden’s. The events showed Mr. Trump surrounded by supporters in a way that underscored how small and remote Mr. Biden’s events were, officials said, while also sending a message that America is open again – something the president has. tried to do so, unsuccessfully, since March, when it declared that the country would reopen by Easter.
Trump’s advisers cited an added benefit to the return of the election rally: helping with “candidate maintenance” by giving the president a vehicle for him to let off steam.
But fighting with Democratic officials over their right to stage events in the first place could be beneficial to them as well, advisers said, possibly fueling complaints from supporters of the president.
Trump campaign co-chair in Nevada, Adam Laxalt, has blamed the political punishment of the state’s Democratic governor, Steve Sisolak, despite the fact that Mr. Sisolak said his office had no involvement in the planning or cancellation of Trump campaign events.
“This is unprecedented: undoing the campaign break of an incumbent president within 60 days of a major contested election in a fluctuating state,” Mr. Laxalt tweeted. “It’s not over!”
In a statement, Murtaugh said that “the Democrats are trying to stop President Trump from speaking to voters” and said the president will still travel to Nevada on schedule. He did not say what Mr. Trump would do instead of the demonstrations.
Other states with restrictions on outdoor gatherings, such as North Carolina, have allowed Trump’s rallies to continue despite the violations, because they believe they cannot limit their right to political free speech.
In Michigan, where the president will hold a hangar rally in Freeland on Thursday night, outdoor events are limited to 100 people and attendees must wear masks and maintain a six-foot social distance. However, airport officials said they were preparing for the participation of up to 5,000 people in the president’s rally, in a county that has had 2,520 coronavirus cases and 129 deaths.
“With such short notice – we were informed Saturday morning that he was on his way and met with intelligence over the weekend – it was definitely a challenge,” said James Canders, director of MBS International Airport.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, told CNN the event was “very distressing,” but her office had no plans to stop it.
“The governor’s office does not make individual execution decisions,” said Tiffany Brown, spokeswoman for Ms. Whitmer.
Kathleen Gray helped reportage from West Bloomfield, Michigan, and Sydney Ember from Connecticut.