How was it in Trump's interest to hold an indoor rally last night?

How was it in Trump's interest to hold an indoor rally last night?

Normally I’d ask “Why would the president put people at risk and set a bad example by holding an indoor rally last night?” but that’d be a silly question. He’s a civic disaster and a deeply selfish human being. If it’s in his interest to do something, he’s going to do it regardless of what it means for anyone else.

So let’s approach it from that angle. How was it in his interest to hold a rally indoors?

How is it in his interest, 50 days out from an election, to generate headlines like this?

Americans are keenly aware of the risk from indoor gatherings. More than two-thirds believe they’re not safe in a movie theater right now. “Tenet,” one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year, has reportedly made a measly $16 million over its first two weekends of release. Last week the CDC released a study that found people who’ve tested positive for COVID were twice as likely to have dined at restaurants over the previous two weeks than people who haven’t.

Herman Cain famously contracted COVID after attending Trump’s last indoor rally, in Tulsa in June, and later passed away. There’s no proof that he got infected at the rally itself, but he might have, and his tragic death is mentioned in many of the reports today about the Nevada rally last night.

To repeat the question: Against that backdrop, how is it in Trump’s electoral interest to broadcast to Americans that he’s taking the virus less seriously than most of them are? Especially following a media uproar over what he said to Bob Woodward in March about deliberately “downplaying” the threat from the virus.

The AP suggests a possibility:

[T]he president’s campaign believes it needs to change the subject and project the sense, despite evidence otherwise, that the pandemic was winding down and that a vaccine was on the horizon. Part of the plan: create images of normalcy, like the packed White House lawn for Trump’s convention speech, though it was unclear if viewers were reassured or frightened.

That’s plausible. It’s extremely Trumpy to believe you can talk the public into believing that things are getting back to normal as the death toll nudges past 200,000, Americans are mass-boycotting things like movie theaters, and doctors like Fauci are warning of a brutal winter to come. To have even an outside chance of succeeding at that, though, one would think the president would need a reservoir of credibility on handling COVID that he just doesn’t have. An ABC poll out yesterday finds that just 31 percent of adults trust his rhetoric about the virus, and 51 percent of his own base — whites without a college degree — are skeptical of what he’s said about it.

There would at least be some mitigation of the bad optics if the campaign had insisted on all attendees wearing masks. But according to the AP, masks were mandatory only for those in view of the camera, standing behind Trump’s podium. “Relatively few in the crowd wore masks otherwise,” the agency reported. Some attendees told the Times that the virus was a hoax, with one wearing a t-shirt that read “Social-ism distancing” and another carrying a sign that read “Media is the virus.”

The Times has another theory for why the rally was held indoors, one provided by the campaign itself. They were forced to do it because Nevada’s Democratic governor wouldn’t yield on letting them hold one outdoors:

The campaign’s decision to hold Sunday’s rally indoors came after two outdoor rallies in the state were scuttled, one because the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority informed the tenants who lease the hangar there that the event was in violation of the state directive limiting gatherings to under 50 people. The campaign then vetted five different outdoor venues, all of which were blocked by the governor, according to an administration official familiar with the planning. It settled on the indoor manufacturing plant as a last resort, adding extra ventilation and keeping doors open.

Is Gov. Steve Sisolak attempting to effectively block Trump from holding rallies in his state on social-distancing grounds? He was all over the president on Twitter after last night’s event:

Trump would be justified in complaining if one of his outdoor rallies wasn’t met with the same warm reception by local government as a BLM mass protest, but that doesn’t excuse the decision to hold an indoor rally — at a site, no less, whose own rules about social distancing are *more restrictive* than Sisolak’s rules. (Xtreme Manufacturing, where the rally was held, limits gatherings to 10 people.) I also don’t understand how Sisolak could have effectively “blocked” Trump and his fans from holding an outdoor rally. Obviously they couldn’t block them from holding the rally indoors even though that violated state rules as well. Surely there’s some pro-Trump Nevadan somewhere with a few acres to spare who would have been willing to let the president and a few thousand fans use his property for an evening. Sheldon Adelson doesn’t own any empty parcels anywhere in or around Las Vegas?

Also, if the problem here is Sisolak, what’s Mike Pence doing holding an indoor event today in Wisconsin?

Exit question: How does this help Trump with 50 days to go? Which undecided voter out there who’s worried about getting infected is sifting through the coverage of the Nevada rally today, thinking, “I love having a president who breaks the rules the rest of us are trying to follow to keep people safe”?

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