President Donald Trump is anxious to get back out on the trail, and his campaign team is actively pursuing scenarios that would allow him to get in front of voters as soon as they determine it can be done safely.
The coronavirus pandemic forced Trump to halt his public campaign schedule. His last rally was held in March. The events are a significant part of his pitch to voters and played a big role in his successful 2016 run, and his team is busy planning to find a way to recreate that energy in the current environment.
The question is how and in what form a rally would occur. Three campaign officials tell CNN that no concrete plans are in place to a return to in-person campaigning, but a variety of scenarios are being discussed. That includes the possibility of the President appearing as part of a virtual rally before he appears at an in-person event. The Trump livestream broadcasts have become a hit with the base of the campaign, with the campaign saying that the streams draw one million unique viewers a night – and that’s without Trump himself appearing in any of them.
“He loves it, people love being in his presence as well, so we’re very hopeful that as we head towards November we can get back to the rallies,” said Lara Trump, the President’s daughter in law, on a recent press call with reporters. “The President is excited to do that as well, and I don’t think it would feel like a real campaign season, really without them.”
“We’re hopeful to get back out there on the road, but listen, if we do have to shift to something like a virtual rally, we’re looking at that option. We’ve been really successful with all of our virtual events,” Trump said.
Florida State GOP Chairman Joe Gruters said the campaign has been in contact with him to begin the planning process of holding a rally in his state.
“I’ve talked to the Trump campaign about getting something set up and they definitely want to make it happen,” Gruters said. “I know the President wants to get back here as soon as possible.”
Trump and his advisers also intend to hold the Republican National Convention in person and as scheduled.
In an interview Thursday with the Washington Examiner, Trump said he has every intention of holding the convention in North Carolina but suggested the state’s Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper may attempt to get in the way.
“We’ll have a convention. I’m a traditionalist, but we’ll have to see, like everything else, but I think we’ll be in good shape by that time. We have a great state, North Carolina, that’s been very, very good,” Trump said. “Although, it’s got a Democrat governor, so we have to be a little bit careful. It’s got a Democrat governor, so we have to be a little bit careful with that, because they’re playing politics. They’re playing politics, as you know, by delaying the openings.”
North Carolina officials strongly pushed back on Trump’s claims in a statement to CNN.
“As the Governor said, pandemics cannot be political,” said Sadie Weiner, communications director for Cooper. “North Carolina is using the data and the science based on White House guidance to inform our three-phased approach to lifting restrictions. The health and safety of North Carolinians is the top priority as we battle COVID-19.”
Convention planners are already going to great lengths to plan an event that would work under the new reality of the pandemic. The Republican National Convention Committee recently hired a physician to serve as the senior adviser for health and safety planning. Dr. Jeffrey Runge has been tasked with helping convention organizers plan for a convention that will be safe for its participants.
“We recognize this hasn’t been done before, but we remain committed to leading the path forward so that we can safely re-open America and create a five-star event for attendees and guests this August,” said Marcia Lee Kelly, the CEO and President of the Republican National Convention.
While Trump has been unable to get in front of voters, his campaign is attempting to use the power of incumbency to replace the lack of physical rallies. They regularly tout the President’s briefings and press events on coronavirus and have been specifically targeting messages to voters in the battleground states where Trump has been holding official campaign events.
The President himself is also sprinkling politics into these official visits. During his tour of a medical equipment factory in Allentown on Thursday, Trump directly attacked presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden during his remarks.
CNN’s DJ Judd contributed to this report.