During his summer pandemic tour of the swing states, the president didn’t always take local requests into consideration. In June, after the Tulsa City-County Health Department director pleaded for Donald Trump to postpone his first COVID-era indoor rally, the campaign held it anyway, going so far as to remove social-distancing stickers from the auditorium’s seats. After that get-together most likely caused an uptick in cases in Oklahoma, the president opted for outdoor, fly-in, fly-out rallies on airport tarmacs in battleground states — except when he held an indoor rally last month in Nevada, defying state guidelines and ignoring the protests of public-health officials and local politicians.
So it was somewhat unexpected on Thursday when the Trump campaign announced it would cancel its Saturday rally, to be held in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Although the president’s spokespeople did not provide a reason for the rain check, it appears Trump may actually have listened to local protestations. Both the mayor of La Crosse and the state’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, requested that Trump stay away amid a small surge in cases in the southwest of the Badger State. (Over the past two weeks, Wisconsin has been third in per capita increases in COVID cases.)
“The president could do two things: one is maybe not come to these two municipalities and cities that are ranked right up towards the top of all the places in the country [for infections],” Evers said on Thursday. “The second thing that could be done is for him to insist that if people are there, they wear a mask. He can make that happen. He could wear one too. Those are the two things that he could do to make sure that it doesn’t become a super-spreader event.”
With Joe Biden up seven points in the Wisconsin polling averages, Trump didn’t fully bail on his weekend plans in this state so crucial to his reelection strategy: The president’s Green Bay rally scheduled for Saturday is still on, and on Thursday the campaign announced the event in La Crosse would move a couple hundred miles southeast to Janesville. But Trump’s own White House Coronavirus Task Force has deemed Brown County, where Green Bay is located, a “red zone” for community spread, a designation in which social distancing is encouraged to the “maximum degree possible.” As past outdoor rallies have proved, however, Trump supporters are packed in closely together, and masks aren’t exactly mandatory.