One night after accepting the Republican nomination, Donald Trump resumed campaigning for reelection as though the coronavirus pandemic was a thing of the past, rallying hundreds of supporters at an airport hangar. But with the virus looming over the race, the president for the first time acknowledged even the theoretical possibility of defeat.
“If Biden wins, which I honestly can’t believe would happen, I will have lost to a low IQ individual,” Trump told a boisterous crowd in the low hundreds gathered at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.
His standing position has been that “the only way we’re going to lose this election is if this election is rigged.”
The president’s supporters stood shoulder to shoulder, most not wearing face masks that health experts say can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, which has killed more than 181,000 Americans. On Friday, more than 45,000 new cases were reported in the U.S.
Yet Trump seemed eager to pack more people into his rally, boasting that on his approach to the airport he had seen “thousands and thousands” more supporters lined up who were denied entry out of health concerns, a twist on his usual rally mantra, that “fire marshals” had limited the size of his audience.
“Sir, we couldn’t let them in,” Trump said, recounting what he said an aide had told him, to which he said he responded, “Why not? Let ’em in.”
Brenda Guvin, a retiree from Londonderry, was one of those who did make it inside. She wore a red Trump face mask that had been distributed by the campaign — wrapped around her wrist — and said she wasn’t worried about standing in the packed crowd without a mask.
“I’m not. I’m really not. I’m 74, I’ve had all the tests. I’m fine,” Guvin told Yahoo News. “I don’t know anybody that’s had it. So, we’ll see, but I don’t think there’s going to be any problems.”
Trump spent a good portion of his remarks on the subject that his campaign clearly sees as his best bet to help him close the polling gap with Biden, blasting “Democrat-run cities” where protests over police killings of African-Americans have sometimes turned violent.
“The top 10 most dangerous cities in America are run by Democrats,” Trump said.
One of those cities is Washington, D.C., where protesters heckled Trump’s supporters leaving the RNC this week.
“When it was over, you saw when it was over? The thugs outside because the Democratic mayor of Washington, D.C.,” Trump said. “It’s another Democrat that’s not believing in law and order and you know we give Washington, D.C., a lot of money to run it, but they don’t do a good job of running it.”
Dan and Tina Lorenz, from nearby Windham, N.H., brought their children to the rally.
“There has to be a discovery of who is behind the anarchy and who is funding and moving these people to the cities where they’re going to destroy them,” Dan, a product consultant who wore a mask provided by the Trump campaign, said.
Tina, who wore her mask pulled down under her chin, said the protests aren’t actually protests.
“I think they’re a bunch of violence and people very anti our country,” she said, adding, “They’re acting very un-American.”
Trump also made sure to lump all those who have taken to the streets in the same basket.
“These are friendly protesters, right? They’re just looking for trouble,” Trump said, adding “they don’t even know who George Floyd is.”
That remark came the same day that tens of thousands of protesters descended on the nation’s capital to commemorate the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington. Relatives of Floyd, whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police touched off weeks of protests that occasionally turned violent, addressed the gathering.
Yet Trump’s speech Friday was punctuated with remarks that belied an uneasiness about how the election will play out.
“We’re going to have an unbelievable year unless somebody stupid gets elected and raises your taxes,” Trump said.
The president also complained that recent interviews Biden gave to CNN and ABC News were made up of softball questions that made him look more competent than he really is.
On the assessment from Fox News’ Chris Wallace that his RNC acceptance speech was “surprisingly flat,” Trump defended his performance.
“Well, it’s a different kind of a speech,” Trump said. “Tonight I’m in New Hampshire and we can wing it.”
The president, however, was in Manchester for a reason. An average of recent polls shows Biden leading Trump by 9.7 points in New Hampshire, although state Republicans have expressed confidence in being able to win in November.
As yet there is no actual evidence in the Granite State so far to back up the president’s assertion that “the poll numbers have swung” in his direction.
Of New Hampshire, Trump did his best to guarantee victory. “We are going to have a great win,” he said, before clarifying, “I’m hearing we’re going to have a great win.”
Asked if she felt coming to see Trump was worth the risk of contracting COVID-19, Guvin responded, “I don’t think there is any.”