Trump's Post-debate Rally Attendance Could Barely Fill Venue Says CNN's Jim Acosta

CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta attended President Donald Trump's first rally following the first presidential debate on Tuesday. Acosta said the Wednesday rally in Duluth, Minnesota was "low energy."

Acosta said Trump used "racially charged rhetoric" and attacked Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar, who represents Minnesota's 5th district. He also said the crowd was noticeably smaller than at other rallies.

The quote

"This was sort of a low energy victory lap for President Trump," Acosta told CNN's Don Lemon. "He was declaring victory after last night's debate with Joe Biden. But keep in mind this was one of the smallest crowds I have seen in some time at a Trump rally, during the pandemic. And it was one of his shortest speeches. About 45 minutes. Not one of the hour, hour and a half long speeches we have seen in recent weeks.

"The other thing we should point out, you were talking at great length about the president's failure to condemn white supremacy and the Proud Boys at last night's presidential debate."

"Keep in mind tonight, the president was using more racially loaded rhetoric to try to whip up this crowd."

"I have to tell you, Don, we've been to a lot of Trump campaign rallies over these past several years. They are usually fiery. They are usually packed with people. They can barely fill this venue here tonight. It was rather stunning. It was almost as if some of his supporters saw what happened last night and just decided to stay home."

Why it matters

Trump's rallies have been a key component of his campaigning strategy since 2016. The president and his campaign team have often pointed to the large crowds as evidence for his popularity.

However, at least some of Trump's events seem to be struggling to attract large audiences. His first campaign rally of the 2020 election season in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 20 drew a smaller than expected crowd, reportedly angering the president.

Acosta's claim that Trump used racially charged rhetoric follows criticism of his comments about the far-right group Proud Boys on Tuesday. Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign accused him of refusing to disavow white supremacy.

"Proud Boys, stand back and stand by," Trump said. "But I'll tell you what, somebody's gotta do something about Antifa and the left. This is not a right-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem."

Context

The first presidential debate took place on Tuesday, September 29 and was widely panned by Trump's critics as a "disgrace" with some conservatives opposed to the president calling for Biden to skip the remaining two debates.

The Biden campaign also made a record-breaking fundraising haul the day following the debate, while they raised almost $10 million on the night. The Trump campaign has not yet released fundraising figures from the debate.

Trump Supporters Arrive at a Rally
Supporters arrive at a campaign rally for President Donald Trump at the Duluth International Airport on September 30, 2020 in Duluth, Minnesota. CNN's Jim Acosta called the event "low energy." Stephen Maturen/Getty Images