WASHINGTON – Tied to the White House because of the coronavirus, President Donald Trump hits the road Tuesday by heading to Arizona for his most extensive trip since the start of the pandemic.
Trump will visit a Honeywell aerospace facility in Phoenix that is making respirator masks for health care workers on the first in what may be a series of trips designed to highlight efforts to fight the coronavirus.
“We’re going to start to move around," Trump told supporters last week, adding that he also wants to resume reelection campaign rallies as soon as possible.
Arizona figures to be an important part of Trump's campaign strategy. He carried the state in 2016, but recent polls show him in a close contest this year with presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Trump held a campaign rally in Phoenix on Feb. 19, just before the surge of coronavirus cases.
Before a tour of the Honeywell plant, Trump also plans to participate in a roundtable on Native American issues. Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters that Trump plans to make a new federal commitment to help tribes address the problems of missing and murdered women.
As for why Trump is visiting an important political state, Conway said Trump "looks at the entire country as a battleground."
Trump travels again to Arizona under tight security, including medical security.
The White House announced Monday that medical personnel are administering coronavirus tests to anyone expected to come into proximity to the president.
Trump and aides have said for weeks that he is eager to get of the White House. They are making plans for another trip later this week to Ohio, also a politically consequential state.
Trump has largely stayed in D.C. during the pandemic
Since state officials across the country began locking down in early March to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Trump has ventured beyond Washington, D.C., only twice.
In late March, the president journeyed to Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia as the USNS Comfort took off for New York with medical staff and hospital beds to help fight the pandemic.
This past weekend, Trump choppered to the Camp David presidential retreat in the mountains of Maryland.
Trump has been especially vocal about resuming campaign rallies, but has acknowledged they may have wait until after social distancing guidelines are removed. He said last week he couldn't imagine holding a rally at which "every sixth seat is empty."
"That wouldn't look too good," he said.
During a Fox News town hall on Sunday, Trump said he hopes to do the bigger campaign events closer to the Nov. 3 election: "I would hope that within maybe the last couple of months we'll be able to do rallies in various states."
Trump's trip to the battleground Arizona is a chance for him to get back into the field to talk to the American people instead of remaining confined in Washington, said Rick Gorka, a Republican National Committee spokesman.
“The businesses there have been a key contributor to producing the resources necessary to combat COVID,” Gorka said. “A presidential visit is the ultimate way to show respect and thank individuals for what they’re doing in times of crisis.”
What the political landscape looks like in Arizona
Republicans in Arizona have focused on expanding turnout among GOP voters and winning over independent suburban voters who are wary of Trump's bombastic tendencies and near-constant drama.
Now, GOP operatives are worried about simply maintaining their core support among seniors, many of whom are increasingly concerned about the virus’ impact on long-term care facilities. The state is home to large retirement communities and seniors’ support is crucial to any candidate's statewide win.
“If he loses older voters, that explains why we’re seeing Biden being very competitive in a state like Florida, which has a large retirement population, too,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political science professor who studies voting behavior.
“It makes sense he would pay special attention to Arizona because one of his core constituencies is at risk.”
Contributing: The Arizona Republic