The president repeated his false claim that an abundance of testing made the country’s cases look worse than they were because they “show cases, 99 percent of which are totally harmless.” And he raised expectations for a vaccine “long before the end of the year.” It was his latest attempt to dismiss widespread criticism of his administration’s slow and ineffective response to the virus.
His remarks at Rushmore, and repeated from the grounds of the White House, were a reflection of his dire political standing as he nears the end of his first term in office. Mr. Trump is trailing former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, in national and battleground polls; lacks a booming economy or a positive message to campaign on as he tries to assign blame elsewhere for the spread of the coronavirus; and is leaning on culture wars instead to buoy his base of white supporters.
Sticking closely to the remarks on his teleprompter for both sets of remarks, with none of the joking and sarcastic asides that pepper his rally remarks, Mr. Trump delivered his speeches in a grim monotone that he often employs when reading from a script. His address had little of the celebration and joyfulness that presidents typically try to convey on the Fourth of July,
The speeches were drafted for Mr. Trump by his regular team of writers in the West Wing, who are led by Stephen Miller. Campaign officials said Saturday that they thought the speeches struck the right note for the moment.
Campaign officials have repeatedly said they expect a backlash against the progressive “cancel culture” movement to help the president’s standing with white suburban female voters, who they believe to be frightened by images of chaos in the city streets. But that backlash has yet to reveal itself in polls: A recent New York Times/Siena College survey showed that 75 percent of moderates and even 53 percent of somewhat conservative voters have a favorable opinion of Black Lives Matter.
Central to Mr. Trump’s approach, however, is a belief he and some of his advisers share that voters are misleading pollsters about their support for the nationwide protests, several allies said. As he has sought to present himself as the candidate of law and order, Mr. Trump has rejected suggestions from some aides who have urged him to do more to address racism in America, in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in the custody of police officers in Minneapolis.
Instead, he has intensified his criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement. In a post last week on Twitter, he called the words Black Lives Matter a “symbol of hate” as he criticized plans by the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, to paint the phrase on Fifth Avenue outside Trump Tower.