WASHINGTON — President Trump will return to the campaign trail on June 19 with a rally in Tulsa, Okla., for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak forced most of the country into quarantine three months ago, a campaign official said Wednesday, as polls show former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. establishing a significant national lead over Mr. Trump and the president’s approval ratings plummeting.
Oklahoma, a deep-red state Mr. Trump won four years ago by 36 percentage points, began lifting restrictions on businesses on April 24 and moved into Phase 3 of its reopening on June 1, allowing summer camps to open and workplaces to return with full staffing levels.
Trump campaign officials are unlikely to put into place any social distancing measures for rally attendees, or require them to wear masks, people familiar with the decision-making process said, adding that it would be unnecessary because the state is so far along in its reopening.
Mr. Trump has also made it clear he doesn’t want to speak in front of gatherings that look empty because of social distancing, or to look out on a sea of covered faces as he tries to project a positive message about the country returning to normal life and the economy roaring back, even as his top health advisers have warned the pandemic is far from over. “Oh my goodness,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, said Tuesday. “Where is it going to end? We’re still at the beginning of it.”
Campaign officials said they were considering some modest attempts at reducing risk by providing hand sanitizer on site, but said no final decisions had been made about how to safely bring together a large group of people.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Oklahoma had recorded 7,480 cases of the coronavirus and 355 deaths, according to its health department.
“Americans are ready to get back to action and so is President Trump,” Brad Parscale, the president’s campaign manager, said in a statement earlier in the week. “The Great American Comeback is real and the rallies will be tremendous.”
Mr. Trump will return to the campaign trail on Juneteenth, an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States and celebrated as African-Americans’ Independence Day. After weeks of protests over the killing of George Floyd in police custody, protests and marches are already planned this year for the holiday in many states.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump also said he planned to hold rallies in Florida, Arizona and North Carolina.
In March, as the country began to shut down to help stop the spread of the virus, Mr. Trump reluctantly canceled campaign rallies planned for Colorado, Nevada and Wisconsin, and he has not been out for an official campaign event since then.
Instead, for weeks, he tried to use the White House briefing room as a rally stand-in, holding 90-minute news conferences where he aimed to rebrand himself as a “wartime president.” But those efforts quickly devolved into fights with reporters as the president made stunningly inaccurate claims, including a suggestion that injecting disinfectant into the human body could help combat the coronavirus.
In response, his poll numbers have dipped and his aides have warned him that his behavior is hurting him with many critical voting blocs, like older people and women.
On Tuesday, Mr. Trump continued with the outbursts, falsely targeting and attacking a 75-year-old protester in Buffalo who was in the hospital recovering from a head wound sustained when the police shoved him to the ground.
Republicans in Washington say that it has become increasingly clear to them that Mr. Trump cannot win the election from behind the Resolute Desk and that they are hoping the return to the campaign trail will offer the president a familiar and beloved outlet that will energize him.
But for years now, Mr. Trump’s rallies have not shocked, awed and driven news cycles the way they did during the 2016 election, when he was an unknown political entity.
And during the 2018 midterm election cycle, aides and advisers unsuccessfully pinned their hopes on rallies to improve the president’s mood over his lackluster polls and the special counsel’s investigation. But they did little to stabilize his frame of mind, or keep him less active on Twitter.