But issues related to the coronavirus followed him as he faced new pushback from leftist local officials worried about the growing size of his rallies and his campaign’s repeated flouting of public health guidelines intended to halt the COVID-19 spread. That includes Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who raised alarms about Thursday’s event, warning it would make recovery harder.
Trump, however, reveled in the crowd of several thousand, packed shoulder-to-shoulder in a cavernous airport hangar, mostly without masks — with Air Force One on display as his backdrop.
“This is not the crowd of a person who comes in second place,” Trump declared to cheers as he railed against Whitmer for current state restrictions.
“Tell your governor to open up your state!” he demanded, saying Michigan would be better if it “had a governor who knew what the hell she was doing.”
Trump also cleared up some matters raised by Bob Woodward’s book, in which he characterized the president as “downplaying” the threat of the coronavirus as it began to spread. The Left has seized on the theme, claimed Trump has mismanaged the response.
“This wack job that wrote the book, he said, ‘well Trump knew a little bit,'” Trump told the crowd. “They wanted me to come out and scream, ‘people are dying, we’re dying.’ No, no. We did it just the right way. We have to be calm. We don’t want to be crazed lunatics.”
Biden, he claimed, would terminate travel bans Trump has implemented, overwhelming the state “with poorly vetted migrants from jihadist regions” and refugees “from terrorist hot spots around the world.”
And he continued his appeal to suburban voters who turned to Democrats during the 2018 midterms, warning that under a Biden administration, “far left lunatics” would be placed in charge of the federal government and courts and American suburbs would be destroyed.
“Does anyone want to have a member of antifa as a resident of your suburb? I don’t think so,” Trump declared, telling his supporters, “Your vote will save America.”
Trump has resumed an aggressive campaign schedule, despite the ongoing pandemic and amid growing resistance from local leaders who have expressed alarm at his insistence on holding large-scale rallies as Americans continue to get sick and die.
While the rallies so far have been held in open-air airport hangars, they have been drawing thousands of supporters despite local restrictions — many by Democrat governors who are suspected of keeping them in place to depress the economy and harm Trump’s re-election chances.
And the majority of attendees, including in Michigan, have refused to wear masks, even when mandates are in place. Trump has characterized the rallies as “peaceful protests.”
This week, the state of Nevada became the first to scuttle his plans for rallies initially set for Las Vegas and Reno, after the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority warned a company that planned to host 5,000 people at a private hangar it would be in violation of the governor’s restrictions banning gatherings of more than 50 people and the terms of the company’s lease for the hangar.
“Outrageous!” tweeted Adam Laxalt, Trump’s Nevada campaign co-chair, in response.
In Michigan, Gov. Whitmer did not try to stop the rally, but warned that such events “threaten all that sacrifice that we’ve made.”
“If the rallies are like those he’s held in recent days in other states, with lots of people close together without masks on projecting their voices, I’m concerned about it,” she said Thursday morning.
Michigan currently caps outdoor events at 100 people and mandates that attendees wear masks if they cannot consistently stay 6 feet away from people who are not part of their households. There is an exception, though, for outdoor expressive activities protected by the First Amendment. The governor’s office said people still must maintain distance.
Michigan is a vital Electoral College battleground, which Trump won by only 10,704 votes in 2016, helping him breach the Democrats’ “blue wall.”
Both candidates have been paying frequent visits, with Biden traveling to suburban Detroit on Wednesday to make a direct appeal to blue-collar workers who might have voted Republican four years ago but now regret it.
Trump on Thursday pushed back, accusing Biden of supporting trade deals and policies that led to U.S. job losses.
“Joe Biden devoted his career to offshoring Michigan’s jobs,” Trump said, drawing boos from the crowd. “Biden supported every disastrous globalist sellout for over a half a century.”
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.