Thousands of empty seats at Trump’s comeback rally in Tulsa

President Donald Trump launched his comeback rally Saturday by defining the upcoming election as a stark choice between national heritage and left-wing radicalism. But his intended show of political force amid a pandemic featured thousands of empty seats and new coronavirus cases on his own campaign staff. “Do you want to bow before the left-wing mob, or do you want to stand up tall and proud as Americans?” Trump unleashed months of pent-up grievances about the coronavirus, which he dubbed the “Kung flu,” a racist term for COVID-19, which originated in China. In the hours before the rally, crowds were significantly lighter than expected, and campaign officials scrapped plans for Trump to address an overflow space outdoors. Trump devoted more than 10 minutes of his 105-minute rally — with the crowd laughing along — trying to explain away a pair of odd images from his speech last weekend at West Point, blaming his slippery leather-soled shoes for video of him walking awkwardly down a ramp as he left the podium. But Trump also leaned in hard on cultural issues, including the push to tear down statues and rename military bases honoring Confederate generals following nationwide protests about racial injustice. “They want to demolish our heritage so they can impose their new repressive regime in its place.” Trump also floated the idea of a one-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of burning an American flag, an act of protest protected by the First Amendment. But his scattershot remarks made no mention of some of the flashpoints roiling the nation, including the abrupt firing of a U.S. attorney in Manhattan, the damaging new book from his former nationalsecurity adviser or the killing of George Floyd. But Trump and his advisers forged forward, believing that a return to the rally stage would reenergize the president, who is furious that he has fallen behind Biden in polls, and reassure increasingly anxious Republicans.  But Trump has struggled to land effective attacks against Biden, and his broadsides against the former vice president did not draw nearly the applause as did his digs at his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton. The president’s campaign tried to point fingers elsewhere over the smaller-than-expected crowds, accusing protesters of blocking access to metal detectors and preventing people from entering the rally.

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