US President Donald Trump on Saturday hailed his supporters as “warriors” for defying the coronavirus and attacked his Democratic rivals at his first campaign rally in three months, an event with crowds far smaller than promised.
Gathering his political faithful at a much-hyped rally in Oklahoma, the Republican president sought to reinvigorate his flagging campaign in the face of a crushing health and economic crisis as well as protests against racial injustice that have swept the nation in recent weeks.
Trump has claimed victory over the pandemic that has killed some 120,000 Americans, saying “I have done a phenomenal job with it!”
Meanwhile, six members of his own Tulsa advance team tested positive for COVID-19.
While delivering speech, Trump said, “The silent majority is stronger than ever before”.
The President also blasted his 2020 election rival, Democrat Joe Biden, as a “helpless puppet of the radical left.”
“Five months from now we’re going to defeat ‘sleepy’ Joe Biden,” he said.
Many rally-goers wore red “Make America Great Again” hats or T-shirts, but very few wore masks and there was little social distancing, even though coronavirus cases have recently been skyrocketing in Oklahoma.
Trump, 74, insisted he was in good health after a graduation ceremony where he appeared to show signs of fatigue, before quipping “I’ll let you know if there is something wrong.”
Trump is eager to reopen the economy and resume political campaigning even as coronavirus cases have started to rise again, with record increases reported earlier this week in Oklahoma, Texas, and Oregon.
The rally has been controversial not just because of the virus risk. Originally it was scheduled for Friday — the Juneteenth commemoration of the end of slavery in the US — in a city known for one of the deadliest-ever massacres of African Americans.
The Democratic National Committee earlier postponed the party’s presidential nominating convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to August 17, the week before the Republican Party’s convention, scheduled for August 24 to 27 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Earlier, Trump’s re-election campaign had said in a statement that Biden has “had to adopt most of Bernie’s agenda” — policies that Trump has branded socialist.
Racial tensions have roiled the nation following the police killing of a black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis.
In a series of polls conducted in April, Biden leads Trump in head-to-head general election matchups by an average of 5.9 percent.
The 2020 US presidential election is scheduled for Tuesday, November 3.
(With inputs from agency)