President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis discussed the re-opening of Florida’s businesses during a White House meeting.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Wednesday he plans to travel to Arizona next week, leaving the confines of Washington for the first time in more than a month as the administration begins pushing states to ease coronavirus restrictions that have crippled the U.S. economy.
The White House is arranging plans for the president to visit a manufacturing plant that makes masks, senior administration officials said. They did not identify the precise location or day of the visit.
“I think I’m going to Arizona next week. We look forward to that. And I’m going to, I hope, Ohio very soon,” Trump told reporters during a roundtable discussion with business executives from companies including Hilton, Waffle House and Wynn Resorts.
Trump said the trip would be centered on industry because “it’s too soon for the big everybody-get-together-and-stand-next-to-each-other crowds.”
The trip to Arizona and possibly Ohio, both considered battleground states in November’s election, comes as Trump has signaled he is eager for states to begin allowing residents to return to work and lifting strict social-distancing guidelines put in place amid the coronavirus crisis.
The president has not left the White House since March 28, when he traveled to Norfolk, Virginia, to send off the USS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship deployed to assist with New York City’s coronavirus response. Trump is also expected to travel to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on June 13 to deliver the commencement address.
“We’re going to start to move around and hopefully in the not-too-distant future, we’ll have some massive rallies and people will be sitting next to each other. I can’t imagine a rally where you have every fourth seat full – every sixth seat’s empty for every one that you have full. That wouldn’t look too good,” Trump told reporters Wednesday.
“I hope we’re going to be able to do some good old-fashioned 25,000-person rallies where everyone is going wild because they love our country.”
Vice President Mike Pence has paved the way for the president’s expected travel schedule, according to a senior administration official, by visiting a series of manufacturing plants and health care sites in recent weeks.
Pence traveled to Rochester, Minnesota, on Tuesday to visit the Mayo Clinic, where he faced criticism for appearing to flout the clinic’s face mask policy, and is expected to tour a GM ventilator plant in Kokomo, Indiana, on Thursday.
Last week he traveled to Wisconsin, also considered a key state crucial to winning the presidential election, to tour a ventilator factory and delivered the commencement address at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
While the Trump campaign remains confined to online forums and social media, the president’s selected location of Arizona underscores the state’s importance in November. All eyes are on GOP Sen. Martha McSally, who was appointed to the seat vacated by the death of veteran Sen. John McCain. McSally is in a tight race with retired astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Trump is also trailing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden by more than 4 percentage points in the former Republican stronghold, according to RealClearPolitics.
Josh Schwerin – a senior strategist with Priorities USA Action, a political action committee that supports Democratic candidates – said Trump is only worried about his re-election prospects as he heads to Arizona.
“A large majority of the country agrees that we need to stay shut down until it’s safe to reopen, but Trump is panicking about his poll numbers so he’s clearly decided to put his own political interests ahead of the health of the citizens he was elected to represent,” he said.
Schwerin added: “Trump’s only concern has ever been Trump, but traveling with a massive presidential entourage in the middle of a pandemic isn’t just selfish, it’s dangerous.”
Political analyst Stuart Rothenberg said Trump appears to be struggling in a key part of Arizona: Maricopa County, a once reliably Republican area that includes Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler, Tempe, Scottsdale and other suburban communities.
In a recent column, Rothenberg wrote: “Arizona’s results from Maricopa may well determine who sits in the White House for the next four years. And that is not good news for Trump.”
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