Donald Trump’s weekend rally in Oklahoma highlighted growing vulnerabilities in his campaign, despite it being designed to show strength and enthusiasm heading into the critical final months before the presidential election.
The Oklahoma rally crystallised a divisive re-election message that largely ignores broad groups of voters – independents, suburban women and people of colour – who could play a crucial role in choosing Mr Trump or Democratic challenger Joe Biden as the next US president.
The lower-than-expected turnout at the comeback rally, in particular, left Mr Trump fuming.
“There’s really only one strategy left for him, and that is to propel that rage and anger and try to split the society and see if he can have a tribal leadership win here,” former Trump adviser-turned-critic Anthony Scaramucci said on CNN programme Reliable Sources.
The president held his self-described campaign relaunch in Tulsa as the nation grappled with surging coronavirus infections, the worst unemployment since the Great Depression and sweeping civil unrest.
But the day after Mr Trump’s Tulsa rally, the president’s message was almost an afterthought as aides tried to explain away a smaller-than-expected crowd that left the president outraged.
Betting big on Tulsa
The campaign had been betting big on Tulsa.
Mr Trump’s political team spent days proclaiming that more than one million people had requested tickets.
They also ignored health warnings from the White House coronavirus task force and Oklahoma officials, eager to host an event that would help him move past the civil rights protests and the coronavirus itself.
His first rally in 110 days was meant to be a defiant display of political force to help energise Mr Trump’s spirits, try out some attacks on Mr Biden and serve as a powerful symbol of American’s re-opening, but it didn’t turn out that way.
A video of Trump disembarking Marine One back in Washington later that night captured the seemingly exhausted and defeated tenor of the president perfectly.
Instead, the city fire marshal’s office reported a crowd of just less than 6,200 in the 19,000-seat BOK Centre, and at least six staff members who helped set up the event tested positive for the coronavirus.