Trump campaign scraps rally ahead of Sessions-Tuberville primary amid pandemic

Trump was slated to travel to the state ahead of the Senate race between his former attorney general Jeff Sessions and the former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, but plans were called off as state officials voiced concerns about a mass gathering and campaign officials ultimately decided against it. A person close to the campaign said there are currently no rallies on the horizon, but aides are scoping out possible venues for when they decide to host them again.

“We don’t ever confirm where we’re looking until a rally date and location are announced. There is always work underway to identify sites,” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign.

On Tuesday, Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey announced an amended order, which will extend the current rules until the end of July. The order encourages minimizing travel outside the home and wearing face coverings when doing so. The order also states that “all non-work related gatherings of any size, including drive-in gatherings, that cannot maintain a consistent six-foot distance between persons from different households are prohibited.”

The decision will likely be a welcome relief for Sessions, who once safely held the seat before becoming Trump’s attorney general but is now locked in a tight race with Tuberville. The rally was slated to be held in his hometown.

The scrapped plans comes as Trump has continued to complain about the low turnout during his first return to the campaign trail in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when he addressed an arena filled with empty seats. The campaign never formally announced the plans for the Alabama rally.

There had once been plans to announce new rallies shortly after Tulsa, with some of Trump’s aides believing the event would validate their claims of pent-up demand. But instead the opposite occurred and the campaign began to rethink how Trump’s rallies would look going forward, including weighing smaller events or outdoor venues.

Tulsa was Trump’s first rally in three months since coronavirus restrictions were put in place and served as a stark reminder for the campaign — and the President — that the pandemic is far from over. Eight campaign staffers and two Secret Service agents in Tulsa tested positive for coronavirus and the rest of Trump’s campaign staff who attended the rally quarantined the following week. The campaign conducted temperature checks, provided hand sanitizer to attendees and passed out masks, but did not require people to wear them or social distance during the event.

Signs promoting social distancing during the event were removed by campaign staff. A similar scene unfolded a few days later when Trump spoke at a crowded church in Arizona where few attendees wore masks.

Alabama, a deep-red state that overwhelmingly supported Trump in 2016, began reopening in early May but is now one of dozens of states showing an upward trend in average new daily cases, an increase of at least 10%, in the last week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Trump had been itching to return to the campaign trail and was personally enthusiastic about the idea of traveling to Alabama days ahead of the Senate race where he’s endorsed his former attorney general’s opponent. He views the rallies as an outlet where he can connect with his supporters in a way that he can’t inside when he’s in Washington and has blamed bad poll numbers on his absence from the campaign trail.

But deeper concerns about his reelection chances are now surfacing inside the President’s orbit. Several of Trump’s allies have voiced concern for the first time in recent days that his chances of success in November are slipping away — eroded mainly by his divisive behavior and refusal to calibrate his response to a series of national crises.

Several of them spoke on the condition of anonymity so they could talk candidly, but some of his allies are saying so publicly.

“Not many people are saying it out loud on the right, but the fact is that President Trump could well lose this election. In fact, unless fundamental facts change soon, it could be tough for him to be reelected,” the Fox News host Tucker Carlson said on his program last week. Trump is known to watch Carlson’s program closely.

The President’s allies are hopeful he can correct course in the next few months and are counting on a boost when he sits down to debate former Vice President Joe Biden. Another person close to Trump noted that at this time in the 2016 campaign, he still had the Access Hollywood tape saga ahead of him.

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