President Donald Trump has returned to the campaign trail a week after being discharged from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre. Political analyst Thomas Sutton and body language expert Allan Pease have analysed the president’s latest performance in Florida, the first one since he contracted the coronavirus.
On 12 October, the president held a rally in Sanford, Florida, while on Thursday, Trump will take part in an NBC News town hall event in Miami at the same time as Joe Biden has his own town hall gathering, which will be broadcast by ABC.
Trump’s Body Language Signals He’s Confident & Happy to be Back
“He is behind in the national polls and in several swing states critical to his re-election”, the academic notes. “He believes he must get back out in public to rally his core supporters and dispel concerns about his health. Further, by campaigning actively, Trump is trying to marginalise the issue of how his administration is handling the coronavirus pandemic”.
During the Florida rally, President Trump stressed that he felt “powerful” and was no longer concerned about the possibility of contracting COVID-19 since he is now “immune” to the virus.
“I’ll kiss everyone in that audience. I’ll kiss the guys and the beautiful women. Everyone. I’ll just give you a big fat kiss”, Trump told his cheering supporters.
The president’s confidence was clearly manifested by his body language, highlights Allan Pease, a body language expert and the bestselling author of “The Definitive Book of Body Language”.
“Love him or hate him, Trump connected with his audience during the ‘MAGA’ Rally in Florida by using all the right body language, including open palms, smiling, eye contact, and other gestures consistently congruent with his message”, the expert explains. “Trump is telling his supporters that he’s back and he’s very, very happy about it. There is no question from his body language that Trump was in his element at the rally – he is relaxed and comfortable in front of the camera and a large crowd of his supporters”.
Body language makes up 60-80% of the impact of a message and Trump knows and masters this very well, according to Pease: “To his supporters, he conveys passion and confidence – standing with an open body, opening his arms and palms wide”, the author notes. “He speaks from the heart and laughs as he makes fun of his opponent, Joe Biden”.
When making a strong point, Trump either bangs his hand down on the lectern or uses a modified version of finger pointing – the “OK” gesture where thumb and forefinger come together and the hand moves in time with the message, Pease says, adding that the president uses a finger point – a strong authoritative gesture – only when he’s referring to his opponent or the “fake news”, after which he quickly returns to more positive message and open body language.
“Throughout the rally, Trump’s body language is congruent with his message because he believes what he is saying”, the expert stresses. “He loves what he’s doing and it shows in his smile and relaxed body language. Regardless of his political decisions, his appeal is that he is more animated and relatable than an average politician”.
AP Photo / John Raoux
Supporters cheer as President Donald Trump leaves a campaign rally at the Orlando Sanford International Airport Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Sanford, Fla.
Trump’s Race Against the Clock
The US president is campaigning in part by portraying Biden as weak and lacking stamina, and therefore must not appear to be weakened by the coronavirus, Thomas Sutton underscores.
Earlier, the president declined to take part in a virtual debate with Biden, stressing that it would be “ridiculous” to “sit at a computer” to debate his opponent.
A day after Trump returned from the hospital, the Democratic nominee told reporters that if the president still has COVID, they shouldn’t have the debate that was initially scheduled to take place in Miami on 15 October. The debate commission decided to make the second event virtual, while Trump insisted on a postponement, offering to move the Miami debate to 22 October and the third contest from 22 October to 29 October. The Biden campaign protested, claiming that “Trump’s erratic behaviour does not allow him to rewrite the calendar”.
“Biden used the opportunity to challenge Trump, reinforcing his message that Trump is disregarding basic safety precautions in dealing with the coronavirus, despite his having contracted the disease, along with his wife and over 30 of the White House staff”, Sutton points out.
However, before the Florida rally, White House physician Sean Conley asserted that Trump had been tested negative for the coronavirus: “I can share with you that he tested negative, on consecutive days, using the Abbot BinaxNOW antigen card”, the doctor’s statement said.
With less than three weeks left before Election Day, the Trump campaign is racing against the clock, with many more events scheduled for this week in Pennsylvania, Iowa, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, Trump is still trailing his Democratic rival in nationwide surveys. Last week, the “FiveThirtyEight” poll aggregator gave Trump a 14% chance of winning the vote versus an 86% chance for Biden, which triggered backlash from the president, who tweeted that the pollster had “got it so wrong”. Four years ago, the same site gave Hillary Clinton a 71.4% chance of coming out on top, but missed the target.