LONDONDERRY, N.H. (AP) — Fresh off accepting the Republican Party’s nomination, President Donald Trump is looking to spread fear about the implications of a Joe Biden victory to voters in battleground states with just over two months until Election Day.
Trump is holding a rally in New Hampshire on Friday evening as he continues to flout coronavirus guidelines and launches an aggressive travel schedule heading into the fall campaign. In his convention finale a day earlier, Trump blasted Biden as a hapless career politician who will endanger Americans’ safety.
The 70-minute address from the South Lawn of the White House marked Trump’s attempt to frame the general election as a dire choice between two futures for the nation — a theme he was expected to amplify on the campaign trail.
“We have spent the last four years reversing the damage Joe Biden inflicted over the last 47 years,” Trump said Thursday, referring to the former senator and vice president’s career in Washington.
Trump departed the White House by motorcade Friday, requiring it to weave through District of Columbia streets packed with demonstrators participating in a commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The motorcade made it to Joint Base Andrews without incident. Isolated groups of protesters on street corners made their presence felt through gestures directed at the motorcade.
While the coronavirus kills 1,000 Americans each day, Trump defied his own administration’s pandemic guidelines on Thursday to speak for more than an hour to a tightly packed, largely mask-less crowd. In New Hampshire, a campaign advisory said masks for attendees are “required” in accordance with Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s executive orders, and would be provided.
Similar indoor-outdoor rallies at aircraft hangars in recent weeks have seen limited compliance with face covering mandates. The event format has become the Trump campaign’s go-to amid the pandemic.
Before Trump arrived, many in the crowd did not put their masks back on after singing the national anthem. They later booed when a campaign staffer called on them to do so.
Trump is anxious for a return to normal activities and complained on the way to New Hampshire about the state of the college football season. In the Big Ten conference, coaches and medical personnel are working on multiple plans for staging a football season — including one that would have the league kicking off during the Thanksgiving weekend. The conference is filled with teams from battleground states that will prove critical in the upcoming election.
“No, I want Big Ten, and all other football, back - NOW,” Trump tweeted. “The Dems don’t want football back, for political reasons, but are trying to blame me and the Republicans. Another LIE, but this is what we are up against! “
Trump’s pace of travel is expected to pick up to a near-daily pace. Biden, who has largely weathered the pandemic from his Delaware home, announced Thursday that he will soon resume limited campaign travel.
Trump last attempted to visit New Hampshire six weeks ago, when he called off a trip on the eve of a scheduled campaign rally citing the threat from a tropical storm — but also as his campaign worried that attendance would be sparse amid a nationwide surge in virus cases. That rally was to have been Trump’s first since his embarrassing return to the campaign trail in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June, where he spoke to a half-empty arena and an anticipated overflow crowd never materialized.
Associated Press staff writer Holly Ramer contributed to this report.