WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump postponed a highly anticipated rally planned Saturday in New Hampshire citing Tropical Storm Fay, prompting some critics to point out that it was the latest hiccup in the president's effort to restart his campaign.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany confirmed the decision to reporters traveling with the president in Florida on Friday, noting the "big storm" looming off the East Coast. She said the event would delayed "a week or two."
Trump followed up with a tweet later Friday.
"With Tropical Storm Fay heading towards the Great State of New Hampshire this weekend, we are forced to reschedule our Portsmouth, New Hampshire Rally at the Portsmouth International Airport at Pease," the president posted.
"Stay safe, we will be there soon!"
Democrats pointed to weather forecasts indicating the storm would track west of Portsmouth and that its center was expected to be in Canada by the time of the rally's scheduled 8 p.m. EDT start.
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"Can you draw us a map showing how the tropical storm can hit New Hampshire?" Joe Lockhart, a former press secretary to President Bill Clinton, asked McEnany on Twitter. "Can’t find any real ones."
The decision to postpone follows a Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last month that drew smaller than expected crowds and raised questions about the campaign's ability to hold large events during the COVID-19 pandemic. Public health officials in the state have said the rally may have contributed to a spike in cases there.
Campaign officials hyped the Tulsa event and boasted that they had received requests for 1 million tickets. Turnout was smaller than expected, with just 6,200 people showing up and leaving Trump addressing a lot of empty seats in a 19,000-capacity arena.
The campaign did not tout expected attendance for the New Hampshire event.
The National Weather Service forecast for Portsmouth, New Hampshire, showed a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms before 9 p.m. EDT. The Weather Channel said that a stray shower or thunderstorm was possible.
The New Hampshire rally had raised flags for some local officials concerned about the spread of coronavirus. A handful of Portsmouth leaders wanted to mandate face masks be worn. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu had said it is "imperative" attendees wear masks.
Sununu planned to skip the event.
"I'm not going to put myself in the middle of a crowd of thousands of people, if that's your question specifically," Sununu said earlier this week.
Tom Rath, a former New Hampshire Attorney General who has advised Republican presidential candidates, said he doubted many Republicans were disappointed by the decision to hold off on the rally.
"Somewhat like learning the growth was benign," he said.
Trump’s New Hampshire rally, which was to be held at an airport hangar, was scheduled as the president is trying to recharge his struggling campaign amid a recent spike in coronavirus cases and as polls show him trailing the presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, in November.
Trump lost New Hampshire to Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 by just 2,736 votes. A poll last month by St. Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics showed him trailing Biden in the Granite State by 7 points.
But while a campaign rally might help fire up Trump’s base and provide him with a made-for-television moment, it is unlikely to move other voters into his camp and might even turn off suburban voters, predicted Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire.
In New Hampshire, "his real dilemma right now is in the prosperous suburbs, where you find a lot of college-educated voters who are well off," Scala said. "They likely still have their jobs and so forth, but they are anxious about what’s happening and what will come."
Biden campaign spokesman TJ Ducklo poked fun at the postponement.
"The storm is coming," Ducklo tweeted, "and his name is @JoeBiden."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump postpones rally in New Hampshire, citing Tropical Storm Fay