Axios reporter Jonathan Swan predicted “recriminations” in the hours after the rally ended on Saturday night. Here they come.
When asked about the Tulsa rally fiasco, sources close to the Trump campaign are quick to point out that campaign COO Michael Glassner is responsible for rally planning and logistics, not Brad Parscale.
— Jonathan Easley (@JonEasley) June 22, 2020
That’s a nice try by Team Parscale to pass the buck but it’s not just the poor attendance that irked Trump and his inner circle. If you believe CNN, Jared and Ivanka are angry at Parscale for hyping the event relentlessly in the days beforehand, making the disappointing turnout that much newsier afterward.
“Jared and Ivanka are pissed at Brad over promising on crowd size,” the source said…
[A second] person said blame from this camp has focused squarely on Parscale, of whom some had already been skeptical. But some donors and allies feel the rally debacle — in which the campaign made a decision to inflate expectations about enthusiasm for the rally rather than manage them at a reasonable level — threw into sharp relief the existing management problems on the campaign, the person said.
“What happened last night is representative of a much bigger problem,” the person noted…
Parscale is facing a “decline of confidence,” from Trump’s inner circle, [a campaign] adviser added.
Jared and Ivanka deny that they’re mad, naturally. One smart point I saw a couple of Trump fans make yesterday on social media was that if Parscale and his team badly overestimated the turnout based on their analysis of online RSVPs, it necessarily means that something’s wrong with their data operation — which does suggest “a much bigger problem” within the campaign. Politico claims that 1.1 million people registered online to attend the rally but that the campaign looked at voter registration histories and concluded that 300,000 or so — the TikTok teens, possibly — were fakes. Of the remaining 800,000, they identified between 200,000 and 300,000 who live within driving distance of Tulsa and might conceivably make the trip. “Worst-case scenario, they concluded, was an audience of about 60,000.”
They overestimated by a factor of 10, with the Tulsa fire department estimating the crowd onhand at roughly 6,200 people. The Times claims there was a feeling of “horror” among the president and his staff as they gazed out at the empty seats backstage before the rally. “The president, who had been warned aboard Air Force One that the crowds at the arena were smaller than expected, was stunned, and he yelled at aides backstage while looking at the endless rows of empty blue seats in the upper bowl of the stadium, according to four people familiar with what took place,” the paper reports, adding that several White House advisors (like Jared and Ivanka, maybe?) called the rally a “disaster.”
Someone must pay. Guess who.
“The president has diminishing confidence in Brad,” a former adviser said of Parscale, who served as the campaign’s digital director in 2016…
According to the former adviser, Trump, who is “getting madder by the day,” has recently made dismissive comments about Parscale’s experience. Prior to working for Trump, Parscale worked at a web design and marketing company he founded in San Antonio. He was named campaign manager of the president’s reelection bid in early 2018.
“I’ve been in the room when Trump refers to him as ‘the website guy.’ … And that’s not that long ago. It’s a problem for Brad,” the former campaign adviser said.
Parscale reportedly has powerful allies in Trump’s inner circle, from Lara Trump to Kimberly Guilfoyle to Kushner himself, although maybe that alliance is fraying given the quotes above.
One unintended benefit for Trump from the attendance debacle was that it drew media coverage away from the fact that his own performance at the podium was terrible, even more unfocused than usual. He himself rated his performance as merely “average” about halfway through but it was worse than that. The most memorable passage was Trump revisiting — at great length — his strange tentativeness in descending a ramp at West Point’s commencement a few weeks ago. The most memorable soundbite was one that Democrats will use against him in attack ads, whether it was intended as a joke or not:
Trump: When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people. You’re going to find more cases. So I said to my people slow the testing down please. pic.twitter.com/RalPJeVH0F
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) June 21, 2020
“Current and former officials say the White House’s insistence that the president was just joking is difficult to believe in part because Trump has made similar comments in the past,” the Daily Beast reported today. One state health official told the website that “I always feared this was what was happening… [H]is speech last night really made it seem like maybe this is the reason why they were slow to get us the resources we needed to do the testing.” A Democratic congressman has vowed to “pursue answers” about whether Trump deliberately held back testing because it made the “numbers” look worse. The president’s most basic task in his first rally after the COVID crisis began was to not hurt himself. He failed.
But he failed in his other task too, which was to help himself by putting Democrats on defense. Peter Spiliakos writes, “Trump could have spent fifteen minutes explaining how a Democratic governor killed thousands of elderly people as the news media cheered. But he doesn’t care about that. So he spent that time on his West Point speech.” Trump fans should be furious that he was so scattershot for a rally which he had weeks to prepare for and which was destined to be covered even more heavily by the media than his rallies usually are. This was effectively the kickoff of his reelection campaign; it should have been 90 percent attacks on Democrats, starting with Biden but extending to Cuomo, Pelosi, left-wing vandals who are tearing down statues, and so on. He’s always treated his rallies as one part photo op and one part therapy session but Republicans had every right to demand something more focused at this stage of the election. There are just four months left, he’s down big in the polls, and he’s constantly in a defensive crouch. Tulsa was his chance to turn it around, but instead the headline is “MAGA FANS AWOL” — which is probably a marginally better headline than “TRUMP RAMBLES FOR NEARLY TWO HOURS.” He was so disjointed that he ended up babbling about prison time for flag-burners at one point. Get in the game.
There are reports today that the next rallies will be held in open-air spaces like airport hangars. That’s a good idea that should give fans nervous about the coronavirus more confidence in attending, but it’s pointless to hold more if he’s just going to riff the whole time. Come in with a message and hammer at it. As an exit quotation, here he is being asked if he was joking about testing on Saturday and giving an answer that veers around to him saying “We’ve done too good of a job.” More attack-ad material.
REPORTER: Did you really ask to slow down coronavirus testing?
TRUMP: “If it did slow down, frankly, I think we’re way ahead of ourselves, if you wanna know the truth. We’ve done too good of a job.” pic.twitter.com/zy4LAWcCii
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 22, 2020