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Trump kicks off campaign … and it was not pretty

Trump kicks off campaign … and it was not pretty

No political event in this presidential season was planned with more anticipation than President Trump’s kick-off rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  It could have been a master stroke – but it wasn’t.  It was both ill-advised and ill-conceived –plus a mediocre performance by President Trump.

As a Trump voter, I wish I could be a cheerleader.  But as an objective analyst of the political realities on all sides, I must call out my team when they are not performing well.  Upset elections happen from time to time, but they are rare and few between.  The political indicators – those tea leaves that we pundits read – are likely to be more accurate in 2020.

As is often the case with Trump, he enabled his political enemies to credibly cherry pick aspects of the planning and execution for criticism.  He again gave the adversarial media talking-points that will not only be cheered-on by the Democrat base and reported by the elitist media, but will also have an air of credibility with independents — the swing voters – that Trump desperately needs to find another path to the presidency.

A missed opportunity in the dialogue on race

How did it happen that the first date was Juneteenth – a holiday of significance to a segment of the black community even if relatively unknown to most Americans?  On his typical back-handed compliments, Trump claimed that he made Juneteenth popular.  That did not go over well with minority leaders even though he was largely correct.  After many years of working in the black community and researching a manuscript on racial history – I have rarely heard a black person mention the holiday and I have no recollection of it at dinners, parades or displays celebrating the occasion.  I did include it in my book, but because I did extensive research.

The outcry over the date caused Trump to postpone for one day.  That did not resolve the location issue.  Tulsa was the scene of one of the worst racial massacres in American history – the attack on a middle-class and upscale community known as the Black Wall Street.  Having researched the matter extensively, I can assure readers that it was a horrific event –the kinds of events that southern Democrat administrations were encouraging and supporting throughout the 100 years they dominated the old southland.

Not only should the rally planners have been aware and sensitive to the racial history, they could have used it as an educational moment on race in America – the counterpoint to the false narrative that marks American culture today.  It did not have to be the entire two-hour oration – but a significant segment.

The failure to recognize a golden opportunity meant that the Democrats’ and media’s false narratives of racism in America – and even the accusations against Trump – gained more footing in the public space.

The pandemic issue

And whoever thought that holding a rally indoors during the Covid-19 pandemic was a good idea?    That fact – and that fact alone – enabled the left to make a distinction – weak as it was – between the massive crowds protesting in violation of the law, the rules, the recommendations of the scientists and common sense and the crowd of Trump ralliers.   At least – the left opines – the demonstrators were out-of-doors.  It should have been an outdoor rally

I have repeatedly written of my belief that we have – and are – overreacting the Covid-19 pandemic – bad as it is.  By not wearing a mask in certain situations, however, Trump played into his enemies’ hands – giving the left an unearned opportunity to make mask wearing a political issue.

Personally, I am not obsessive about wearing a mask, but I do not take my lead from Trump.  I wear one or not based on a specific requirement – such as entering a store – or when I think conditions might warrant it based on my own review of the science.

The message

Having watched Trump’s entire speech, I came away feeling I saw that movie before – more than once.  It was virtually a look in the rear-view mirror.  He railed against the same political demons as he did in 2016.  In fact, he made many of those same points in the same language in a 1988 interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Trump did cover several of his legitimate and popular accomplishments, but they were scatter shots mixed in with his pugnacious rhetoric.  While he attacked former Vice President Biden, the accusations were more headlines with no details.  Trump is too often like a prosecutor in court who says the guy is guilty but fails to lay out the evidence.  A candidate with Trump’s low credibility cannot just make statements.  They have to make the case.

Does crowd size matter?

It was obviously a mistake to oversell the anticipated crowd size.  That is obvious.  By any measure, Trump drew a large crowd considering the health scare and the potential of violence.  Even at 6000 to 8000 people, it was a much bigger crowd than other candidates can draw – and especially Biden.

The problem is not the size of the crowd, but the pre-rally expectations.  They did not fall just a little short of the predictions, they fell tens of thousands short of what was projected – even hundreds of thousands short of some projections.

But it was more than just optics.  Having two-thirds of the arena empty and no overflow crowd outside – where they had set up all the equipment for Trump to speak a second time – can be made part of any political calculation.

It was reported that Trump was angry as hell when it was obvious that the BIG crowd was not going to show up.  He had every reason to be.  But the failure to produce the crowd seems to have been less a failure in execution as it was a conceptual failure from the onset.


As is correctly noted at this stage in a campaign – it is a long way to Election Day and anything can happen.  But to make that happen, the Trump campaign – and the candidate – may be to develop a strategy to the realities of 2020 and not re-run the 2016 campaign.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. Fred W Krommenhoek

    About the Dreamers. We know who they are, but why is it not mentioned more often, that they should be having priority in obtaining citizenship.

  2. Nancy

    Often we face subjects where comments are a personal opinion. While I do agree with some of Mr. Horist’s commentary, I don’t particularly agree with others…and that’s good. One has the opportunity to view the subject in a larger perspective. Whether there were miscues in planning, venue or time, it is what it is. I think what is important is POTUS out on the campaign trail because it’s the only way to reach supporters. Consider Mr. Trump gains absolutely no consideration, other than negative, from the media. He’s fighting a battle, and has been for over three years with the media. A lesser person would have thrown in the towel long ago. So, if mistakes were made in the venue, learn from them and don’t repeat.

  3. georgann mundis

    According to one observer and friend they wrote on facebook that they were at one entrance, passed through all the exams and searches but that the government officials left and didn’t admit them. They said that one entrance was blocked by the Black Lives Matter mob. And that the BOK employees kept moving the no seating signs. Not everyone who wanted to be inside could make it in. They were very disgusted with the way the BOK people behaved.

    Also read, many liberals asked for tickets and did not show up.

    Personally, I don’t know why they didn’t hold the rally at the Tulsa University football stadium. More seats and open air.

  4. Lowell

    The only reason it was not packed to the rafters was that police allowed BLMers to block the entrances, —– and the TV audiences were MASSIVE. It was a great success!!!

  5. Bruce R.

    How about the 7.2 million views on FOX plus several million more on different
    venues. Yes, a lot of people were afraid to attend because of the virus, but
    they still watched his rally.
    So you, Larry Horist, are sounding more like the lamestream media.