Source: The New York Times

President Trump kicked his presidential campaign off with a much-ballyhooed rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday. In the run-up to the rally, Trump and his top campaign brass cited “nearly one million people registering for tickets,” according to The New York Times. One problem: less than a fraction of that number showed up.

The abysmal attendance seemed to rattle the president and his team; according to reporting from the Times, aides warned the president on Air Force One about the small crowds awaiting him in Tulsa. The president “was stunned, and he yelled at aides backstage while looking at the endless rows of empty blue seats in the upper bowl of the stadium.” 

Though the campaign attempted damage control after the failed event, the infrastructure present at the rally belied their spin. An overflow area complete with a stage for outdoor remarks was scrapped when it became clear that the projected crowds would not materialize. According to The Hill, President Trump and Vice President Pence were set to give remarks to the crowd unable to enter the packed arena. 

Some sources within Trump’s circle point to two reasons for the lackluster attendance. One, the persistence of the coronavirus pandemic may have been taken seriously by many who did not see the value in risking their health for a political rally. And second, a slew of recent polls show Vice President Joe Biden leading the incumbent president in a number of critical states.

The event was supposed to kickstart the president’s reelection campaign, but instead of touting a successful event, Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale was fending off rumors that he was on the chopping block. 

Read the full story on the Tulsa rally and its aftermath from The New York Times.