Saturday's Trump Hate Rally in Tulsa was a disaster for the Trump campaign, and they know it.
By the time President Donald Trump was gliding in his helicopter toward Joint Base Andrews on Saturday, destined for what he'd once hoped would be a triumphant packed-to-the-rafters return to the campaign trail, things were already looking bad.
Scanning cable news coverage earlier in the day, Trump was disappointed to see pictures not of massive lines forming outside the Bank of Oklahoma Center in Tulsa but of Geoffrey Berman, the federal prosecutor Trump's attorney general had attempted unsuccessfully to dismiss the night before, a person familiar with his response said.
Hours later, the President was informed six campaign staffers in Tulsa had tested positive for coronavirus ahead of his scheduled arrival -- an unfortunate reminder of an ongoing pandemic Trump's critics say he is ignoring. After initially dismissing the revelation, a source familiar with his reaction said Trump erupted when it was subsequently reported in the media -- overtaking coverage of the rally itself.
Still, a determined Trump was intent on breathing new life into his staggering campaign. He took off for Tulsa, convinced large swaths of his supporters would be waiting for him there.
Things did not improve once Air Force One lifted off. The President received a report that only about 25 people were assembled in the overflow space the campaign had reserved for a crowd Trump claimed five days earlier would top 40,000.
Two hours before the rally was set to begin, people who had signed up for tickets received an urgent text message from the Trump campaign: "The Great American Comeback Celebration's almost here!" it read. "There's still space!"
When the President landed in Tulsa at 5:51 p.m. local time, the crowds his aides had promised him had failed to materialize. Air Force One flew over the arena, where Trump had been told thousands of supporters would be waiting to hear from him before he went inside, but saw nothing resembling the sea of people he'd been expecting.
While he was in the air, the campaign had canceled the outside appearance given the apparent lack of enthusiasm.
Once viewed inside the White House and Trump's campaign as a reset button for a presidency beset by crises and self-inflicted wounds, Saturday evening's campaign rally in Tulsa instead became plagued with pitfalls, a disappointing microcosm of the blindspots, denial and wishful thinking that have come to guide the President as he enters one of the most precarious moments of his first term.
By the time he strode out to the strains of Lee Greenwood on Saturday evening into a partially-full Bank of Oklahoma Center, the event had devolved from a triumphant return to the campaign trail after a 110-day pandemic-forced absence into something else altogether. The launch of a new assault on former Vice President Joe Biden fizzled, replaced by recycled grievances and race-baiting. The sparse crowd was a reminder that many Americans, even Trump's supporters, remain cautious of a pandemic that continues to rage in places like Oklahoma, where cases are spiking, even if Trump is ready to move on.
Reports are that fewer than 6,700 people showed up in the 19,200 capacity arena.
If there was ever a sign that the Trump hold on his cult may be starting to break, it's failure to fill seats in deep red Oklahoma at his first rally in months. Things actually seem to be different this time. Impeachment wasn't enough, a pandemic wasn't enough, a Bresurgent Black Lives Matter wasn't enough...
...but the incompetence of Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale to account for the social media generation may finally be the keystone that collapses the Trump circus.
As CNN's Harry Enten points out, there are no "hidden" Trump voters this time around like there were in 2016, people embarrassed to tell polsters that they preferred Trump. That was a big problem for the Democrats in 2016. There's no evidence that the same thing is happening this time.
A new national Ipsos/Reuters poll finds that former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump 48% to 35%.
While Biden has led Trump in almost every Ipsos poll this year, his advantage this week is the largest in 2020.
What's the point: Even though the national polls were accurate in 2016, one of the complaints I hear most often about the polls is that Trump's supporters are either lying or won't talk to pollsters. Polls like Ipsos get around that argument because they use machines (e.g. they're done online) to conduct the interviews. There's no reason to lie to a machine. If Trump was doing significantly better in these non-live interview polls, then these critics of the polls may have a point.
The evidence indicates these detractors are, at least in this moment, wrong. There's no sign of shy Trump voters. Trump doesn't do any better in polls without a live interviewer.
The average of national surveys (accounting for the fact that some pollsters survey more often) this week from pollsters who didn't have a live interviewer put Biden up over Trump 50% to 39% (10 points unrounded). That's a huge advantage and very similar to the latest live interview poll average that has Biden up 51% to 41%.
So Biden still has not just a small lead, but a double-digit lead unless every single pollster is wrong. The cracks are showing.