October 24, 2020
By JOHN SEEWER Associated Press
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) – When a flotilla of pontoons and fishing boats adorned with ‘Trump 2020’ flags passed him this summer, Dale Fullenkamp had an idea.
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“I thought I didn’t have a boat, but I had a tractor,” he says.
Soon he led nearly 300 combines and tractors pulling hay wagons and manure spreaders in the village of Fort Recovery in western Ohio, one of many nationwide parades held by a host of grassroots supporters of President Donald Trump.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” said Fullenkamp, a 19-year-old who graduated from high school last spring. “I thought it would be just me and my friends.
These Trump parades – whether by boat, van or tractor – have become a show of force for supporters of the president and a way to make themselves visible in a year when the coronavirus pandemic has shaken the mainstream campaigning and put a run into huge arena gatherings and picnic fundraisers.
Thousands of cars, minivans and motorcycles blocked the interstate surrounding Cincinnati on Saturday and numerous other road rallies were held across the United States.
Campaign strategists and analysts say the parades reflect the president’s populist appeal, but they have different opinions on whether they will help his chances of winning.
Some believe they reveal an underrated enthusiasm for the president and support his fans in the face of polls showing him lagging behind in many battlefield states, while others dismiss the parades as a showcase.
“They’re excited in a way I haven’t seen,” said Pennsylvania-based Republican political strategist Charles Gerow. “These are people who feel they don’t take them seriously and want to make a strong and visible statement.”
Trump campaign officials say they hardly attended the parades, but they happily point out that their Democratic opponents don’t see the same groundswell when it comes to Joe Biden’s parades – much like Trump did. – even likes to mock and contrast the size of her gatherings with Biden’s socially distant gatherings.
Local campaign offices found that the parades attracted new volunteers to help with the exit-voting efforts, said Daniel Lusheck, spokesperson for the Trump campaign in Ohio.
“It’s very organic in nature, but it really boosts the excitement on the pitch,” he said.
Trump too, have noticed, saying at a rally in Florida this summer that “no one has seen anything like it, ever. And we’ve got that in many other states with boaters and bikers and everybody.
Parades and street marches have had a place in American politics since the early days of the nation. Once a staple of the campaign in the 1800s, they have finally given way to more effective means of reaching the masses.
But campaigns big and small have been challenged to come up with something smart this year due to the limits imposed by the pandemic, said Brandon Scholz, a veteran GOP strategist in Wisconsin.
He thinks the parades are good for keeping key Trump supporters engaged, but doubts they will elicit votes.
And they get a lot of attention, if not always positive – like the time in September when five boats sank during a Trump rally on a lake near Austin, Texas.
David Niven, a political scientist at the University of Cincinnati, agreed that the parades weren’t so much about spreading the message that they were reassuring the president’s supporters with “a sea of Trump flags, whether they’re on the road or on the road. river”.
“If it was a normal election year, we would have stadium rallies. There would be so many different ways for people to express themselves, ”he said. “In the world of COVID, it’s stickers, tweets and parades of boats.”
There is certainly a high school rally feel to the Trump parades, with participants flying their colors and singing in unison.
In eastern Tennessee, spectators lined a 4-mile stretch of road through the town of Rutledge in mid-October to cheer on dozens of tractors, vintage cars, motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles decorated with flags and banners celebrating the conservative cause.
“It was bigger than any Christmas parade we’ve ever had,” said Mike Cameron, President of the Grainger County GOP. “And that’s the most important thing happening at Rutledge.”
Biden supporters have fought back with a few car rallies, but his campaign has stayed away from such events to avoid spreading the virus, pursuing an almost entirely virtual strategy to reach voters. The difference was noticeable for the Trump fans who organize and attend the parades.
“You really have to tear down the other side,” said Blaise Greco, who hosted a Trump parade near Hazleton, Pa. That drew more than 400 cars and motorcycles in early October. “Where is their enthusiasm? Where are their flags? Where are their cars?
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