WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he will begin staging campaign rallies again soon with the first one likely in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as he seeks to rebound from a drop in opinion polls after his much-criticized handling of the coronavirus pandemic and mass protests against police brutality and racism.
Trump also told reporters at the White House that he would announce a new location soon for a speech in August accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for president.
Campaign advisers say the site is expected to be Jacksonville, Florida, although Trump said places in Texas and Georgia were also in the mix. On Thursday in Dallas, Trump will attend his first in-person fundraiser since the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Trump has been eager to get back on the road to promote his candidacy before the Nov. 3 election after a three-month hiatus brought on by the coronavirus, which has killed more than 112,000 people in the United States, the most in the world.
In the interim, Trump's standing in the polls has eroded as voters render judgment on his handling of the virus and, more recently, the protests that erupted over the death in Minneapolis police custody of African American George Floyd (here).
Trump has called Floyd’s death a “grave tragedy” but so far has not offered a path for improving race relations.
He said his first rally is expected for June 19 in Tulsa and that others would follow in Florida, Texas and Arizona.
June 19 is known as Juneteenth, a day to commemorate the emancipation in 1865 of the last remaining enslaved African Americans in the Confederacy. Tulsa is where white residents attacked black residents and businesses in 1921 in what is known as the Tulsa Race Massacre.
Kamau Marshall, a spokesman for the presidential campaign of Trump’s Democratic election opponent Joe Biden, condemned Trump’s choice of venue as “racist” on Twitter.
The Republican National Convention, where Trump will be nominated, had been planned for Charlotte, North Carolina, but the state’s Democratic governor Roy Cooper is refusing to allow the crowd size that Trump wants in order to maintain social distancing during the pandemic.
Trump described the governor as “a little bit behind” and added, “... unfortunately we’re going to probably be having no choice but to move the Republican convention to another location. That’ll be announced shortly.”
Trump and his campaign are looking for other sites where most of the convention business will be conducted.
Reporting by Jeff Mason and Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Grant McCool