It wasn’t quite one of his signature big-stadium rallies.
But President Donald Trump drew something closer to the jam-packed audience of political supporters he’s been craving as hundreds of young conservatives filled a Phoenix megachurch Tuesday to hear his call for them to get behind his reelection effort.
The crowded Dream City Church for the gathering of Students for Trump offered a starkly different feel compared to Trump’s weekend rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, his first of the coronavirus era, which drew sparser attendance.
Trump hailed the “patriotic young Americans who stand up tall for America and refuse to kneel to the radical left.”
“You are the courageous warriors standing in the way of what they want to do and their goals,” he told the boisterous crowd. “They hate our history. They hate our values, and they hate everything we prize as Americans.”
Trump was looking to regain campaign momentum after Tulsa, which was supposed to be a sign of the nation’s reopening and a show of political force. Instead, it generated thousands of empty seats and swirling questions about the president’s campaign leadership and his case for another four years in office.
The low turnout sharpened the focus on Trump’s visit to Arizona, which doubles as both a 2020 battleground state and a surging coronavirus hot spot.
With the Phoenix event, which was organized by Turning Point Action, a group chaired by Trump ally Charlie Kirk, the president hoped to turn attention — at least momentarily — away from his slumping poll numbers, surging coronavirus infections in huge swaths of the South and West, and a virus-ravaged economy.
His address was chock-full of typical Trump lines — boasts about television ratings, ridicule of his likely Democratic presidential opponent Joe Biden and sharply worded resentments over China’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. As he did in Oklahoma over the weekend, Trump referred to the virus as “kung flu,” a pejorative term that Asian-Americans say is racist.
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But unlike his return to campaign stage before thousands of empty seats in Oklahoma, Trump seemed to revel in the energy of a packed — albeit smaller — venue. He also offered his supporters a dark warning.
“This will be in my opinion the most corrupt election in the history of our country,” said Trump, who has in recent days stepped up claims that expanded mail-in voting will lead to voting fraud. “And we can not let this happen.”