Two neon buses emblazoned with President Trump’s campaign website will carry a rotating cadre of Trump family members, campaign surrogates and local politicians, crisscrossing swing states for the 85 days leading up to Election Day.
The president’s re-election bid says Mr. Trump’s son, Eric Trump, will board one bus for its inaugural leg, departing from a Trump campaign field office in Kissimmee, Florida, while about 1,000 miles north, his wife and senior adviser to the Trump campaign, Lara Trump, will re-launch the “Women for Trump” campaign bus on its longest road trip to date in Salfordville, Pennsylvania. Both are headed to a slate of in-person roundtables and supporter gatherings ahead of November 3.
The bus tours “are the perfect opportunity to travel the country and speak with everyday Americans about the issues impacting their communities,” Trump campaign deputy communications director Ali Pardo said in a statement.
Since the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump has held just one of his signature campaign rallies in Tulsa, Oklahoma, calling off a second in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The Oklahoma rally that drew just over 6,200 guests in a heavily Republican state fell far short of “1 million RSVPs” touted by the campaign and faced blowback after local health officials suggested it contributed to a countywide spike in COVID-19 cases.
But Mr. Trump has boarded Air Force One regularly, with visits to 16 states since the pandemic’s outset and resumed in-person campaign fundraisers in June. Official White House visits akin to campaign rallies have landed the commander-in-chief in political battlegrounds like Michigan, Arizona, Georgia and recently, North Carolina. The president’s most visible surrogate—Vice President Mike Pence—has meanwhile deployed to Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida, to headline themed campaign stops between coronavirus task force briefings.
And while the GOP’s four-figure army restarted canvassing in June – with a million doors knocked last week, according to the Republican National Committee – Democrats have suspended face-to-face campaigning amid a resurgence of new coronavirus cases.
Biden nixed plans to travel to Milwaukee for his party’s nominating convention, Wednesday, choosing to stay in Delaware. The stay-at-home candidate has opted for virtual livestreams and just 14 physical campaign stops since mid-March. President Trump aims to deliver his party’s acceptance speech from the White House, but party officials have yet to formalize their plans.
Team Trump’s bus tour launches on August 10 will also feature a slate of campaign advisers, including former 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who will join Eric Trump in Kissimmee, along with Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez. Trump campaign senior advisers Mercedes Schlapp and Katrina Pierson will join Lara Trump in Pennsylvania, Monday.
Bus tours are not a new phenomenon for the Trump campaign. Mr. Trump chartered one in 2016, and his re-election bid regularly sponsored on-the-road counter-programming during the Democratic primaries. For his part, Vice President Joe Biden’s “No-Malarkey” bus tour swept Iowa in the run-up to the state’s caucus, and another bus took surrogates around South Carolina.
But campaigning in the age of COVID-19 complicates travel, political or not. With the national death toll marching toward the 160,000 mark, a new NPR/Ipsos poll reveals 55% of Americans surveyed would support a temporary ban on all travel between states.
Twenty-four states plus Washington, D.C. have issued quarantine guidelines for inter-state travel, with the majority mandating 14 days of isolation when hailing from a pandemic hotspot. Ahead of its bus tour, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign says it will “adhere to state and local safety guidelines” while on the road.
Musadiq Bidar, Bo Erickson and Eleanor Watson contributed to this report.