Less than two weeks after his COVID-19 diagnosis, President Donald Trump will travel to Iowa for an in-person campaign rally.
The Make America Great Again rally is scheduled to take place Wednesday evening at the Des Moines International Airport. Doors are set to open at 3 p.m., with the event starting at 6.
While Trump’s rally next week may not be medically advisable, it isn’t surprising given the president’s uncertain reelection prospects. Iowa (in addition to the two states in which Trump is stopping earlier in the week, Florida and Pennsylvania) is regarded as a toss-up state in the upcoming presidential and Senate election. The most recent Iowa Poll has Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden in a dead heat, with 47 percent of respondents saying they plan to vote for the president, and another 47 percent supporting Biden. In 2016, Trump won Iowa handily by approximately 9 percentage points.
The Des Moines Register noted a drastic gender divide in the poll results: Trump had a 21 percent advantage over Biden among respondents who were men, while Biden was up 20 percentage points with women.
“I don’t know that there’s any race in the history of presidential polling in Iowa that shows this kind of division,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., the firm that conducted the Iowa Poll.
Trump isn’t the only Republican incumbent losing ground in Iowa, especially among women. The latest Iowa Poll showed Theresa Greenfield leading Sen. Joni Ernst by 3 percentage points, including a 20-point advantage among women.
In addition, 53 percent of Iowans polled say they disapprove of the president’s handling of COVID-19 — even before news that Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and a growing list of White House staff and cabinet members had tested positive for COVID-19 began to dominate headlines.
Despite the president’s slipping poll numbers in Iowa, the Trump campaign canceled hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of TV ad buys in both Iowa and Ohio this past week, marking three consecutive weeks without campaign commercials in the two toss-up states. Trump campaign spokeswoman Samantha Zagar told CNN the cancellations were made because they are “extremely confident about our chances in these states.”
Those wishing to attend President Trump’s Des Moines rally must pre-register online. The registration page says all attendees are subject to temperature checks at the door, where they will also be given masks.
Recent Trump rallies have included little mask-wearing and social distancing. While the City of Des Moines has a face covering mandate, violators are not penalized, and there remains no statewide mask order; Gov. Kim Reynolds has ardently opposed such a mandate since the pandemic began in Iowa.
The rally registration page also warns that all attendees “voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19, and waive, release, and discharge Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.” from all legal liability “for any illness or injury.”
President Trump’s last visit to Iowa also took place at an airport: eight days after the devastating Aug. 10 derecho, Trump made an hour-and-10-minute stop at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids for a panel discussion with state and local leaders. He did not speak with any storm survivors, or leave the airport.