Keen to appear lively and well after his recent hospitalization for Covid-19, Donald Trump held his first rally since being diagnosed, addressing a packed, largely maskless crowd in Florida – a state he desperately needs to win.
“I feel so powerful,” he boasted to his cheering supporters, 11 days after announcing his infection. “I’ll walk into that audience. I’ll walk in there, I’ll kiss everyone in that audience. I’ll kiss the guys and the beautiful women – everybody,” he added, his voice still a bit hoarse.
With just weeks to go before election day, and early voting under way, Trump has been eager to return to a full schedule of in-person rallies as he scrambles to hold on to supporters. Polls have his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, ahead by an average of 10.4 points as of Friday. Trump is also losing support from seniors, who are the most vulnerable in a pandemic that has already killed more than 214,000 Americans.
In a frenetic push to solidify support, Trump and his campaign have sought to downplay the threat of coronavirus. The president’s own demonstrations of reckless, maskless bravado appear to be key to that strategy, as Trump characterizes his opponent as frail and confined to his basement.
Seniors were among the crowd, who chanted “USA” and “We love you”, at the rally outside Orlando on Monday night. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains that the highest risk events during the pandemic are “large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6ft apart and attendees travel from outside the local area” – a description which more or less sums up a rally.