Trump supporters looking up at sunny skies Saturday afternoon may have been wondering why the president’s campaign had postponed its planned rally that night at an airport hangar in Portsmouth. It’s a question journalists and pundits are asking as well.
Several national outlets are reporting that the New Hampshire event was shaping up to have a disappointing turnout, something the Trump campaign wanted to avoid after the half-filled stadium at the president’s Tulsa appearance made headlines last month.
NBC News quoted an “outside adviser” to the Trump 2020 team as saying Tropical Storm Fay, which was not forecast to hit Portsmouth, provided a “convenient excuse.”
“It’s the perfect timing. The weather may have been dissuading people to attend, but many weren’t coming to begin with because of the virus,” the adviser told NBC News.
Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department, had said the president’s Tulsa rally had “most likely” contributed to a subsequent surge in coronavirus cases in the area.
As the Washington Post noted, the president’s assertion on Twitter that Fay was “heading towards the Great State of New Hampshire,” didn’t jive with reports from the National Weather Service.
With Tropical Storm Fay heading towards the Great State of New Hampshire this weekend, we are forced to reschedule our Portsmouth, New Hampshire Rally at the Portsmouth International Airport at Pease. Stay safe, we will be there soon! #MAGA2020
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2020
“The 11 a.m. wind forecast, released two hours before the president’s tweet, called for a 1 percent chance that winds would reach tropical storm force in Portsmouth during Saturday evening, with a zero percent chance that winds would be sustained at 39 mph or greater for at least a minute after 8 p.m.,” the Post reported.
And the New York Times reported that forecasts were for rain to stop in Portsmouth by noon on Saturday, calling into question the motivation behind the postponement.
“People familiar with the sign-ups said the interest in the rally was significantly lower than for rallies that took place before the coronavirus paused campaigning,” the Times reported. “There was also a lack of local interest in the rally in Portsmouth, a blue town without a red base to draw from, according to a New Hampshire Republican familiar with the event.”
On Twitter, pundits responded with skepticism following the announcement of the rally’s postponement. “Cloudy with a chance of a puny crowd,” tweeted Jennifer Rubin, conservative columnist for the Washington Post.
Cloudy with a chance of a puny crowd https://t.co/0vq7Qz3q31
— Jennifer Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) July 10, 2020
Meanwhile, several viral posts on the social media platform Tik Tok encouraged people to reserve tickets to the New Hampshire event and then not attend — a strategy that Tik Tok users say may have affected discrepancies between anticipated and actual turnout in Tulsa, although the Trump campaign has stated it is constantly weeding out “bogus numbers” from its crowd estimates.
@danielle.garveyI hope no one sees this ##greenscreen ##dumptrump ##blm ##LaughPause ##LegendaryChallenge ##ChocolateRecipe ##racist ##fyp ##share ##viral♬ original sound – danielle.garvey
As recently as Friday, Trump was predicting a “big crowd” at the event, according to Fox News. But one person who had already stated he wouldn’t be attending was the state’s Republican governor, Chris Sununu, who told CNN, “I’m not going to put myself in the middle of a crowd of thousands of people.”
Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s communications director, said the rally “will be rescheduled and a new date will be announced soon.”