Tonight, President Donald Trump is planning to hold a campaign rally in Tulsa. The local paper, the Tulsa World, urged him not to come, saying it was the "wrong time" and the "wrong place" to stage an event that could cause a spike in COVID-19 cases. Bruce Dart, the city's chief health officer, warned that the crowd could ignite a "perfect storm" of conditions to spread the virus.

Last week, Joe Biden traveled to Houston and met privately with the family of George Floyd, the black man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis. He didn't attend the funeral in person, but addressed the gathering by video, directing remarks to Floyd's 6-year-old daughter, Gianna.

The presidential campaign has reached an inflection point, with both candidates emerging from pandemic-enforced isolation and road-testing how they will appeal to voters in the fall.

Trump fancies himself The Warrior, relishing huge public rallies where he can whip up his supporters, dress down his enemies and foment the civil strife he believes will deliver a second term. His vision of America pits Us against Them, True Trumpsters against The Others.

Biden wants to be The Healer, who patches up wounds instead of ripping open scars. His message is steady and sensible, not bold and brash. His trip to Houston embodied one of the presidency's primary roles: consoler-in-chief, a mission Trump has never understood or embraced.

Try to imagine this president speaking tenderly to a bereaved 6-year-old girl. It's totally impossible, and many Americans know that. In the latest ABC/Washington Post poll, only 38% said Trump has the "personality and temperament" to be a good president, while 53% said Biden possesses those qualities.

Trump does have his base, however — that 38% who admire his character — and that's what his Tulsa rally is all about. He deeply craves the adulation that feeds him at these events, an energy source that recharges his batteries.

And even though the president trails Biden by an average of about 8 points in national polls, he enjoys a sizable enthusiasm edge over his rival that is symbolized by those boisterous campaign events. If you cannot visualize Trump consoling a 6-year-old girl, it's also hard to picture Biden sending a large crowd into a frenzy.

To Team Trump, the value of large rallies far exceeds ego gratification. They provide vivid visuals of adoring crowds that are immediately repackaged into TV and social media ads. And every person who walks through the door provides a cellphone number or email address that bolsters the campaign's already robust database.

But there is a down side for the president, reflected in the Tulsa World's plea to stay away. Ignoring that warning opens Trump to charges of reckless and impulsive behavior, one of his most serious vulnerabilities. Even the campaign conceded the problem, requiring rallygoers to sign a waiver absolving Team Trump of liability if they contract the virus. No wonder CNN found that, by a margin of 55 to 41, voters think Biden "would better handle" the pandemic than Trump.

Moreover, when Trump feels unleashed and unhinged at these rallies, he can launch false and malicious charges that inspire his supporters but insult everyone else. In fact, Democrats often use images of Trump's tirades in their own ads. The president probably appears in those commercials more often than the Democrats' presumptive nominee. Anti-Trump feelings are far more powerful motivators than pro-Biden impulses, and that reality is shaping the Democrats' strategy.

Let Trump have the floor. Let him make mistakes. Let him alienate the few swing voters left with his outlandish behavior. Don't get in his way. Let him run against himself.

As for Biden, keep him controlled and cautious. Avoid unforced errors. His private trip to console the Floyd family, and his video speech to the funeral, provides a template for this approach.

Think of it this way: Biden is wearing a mask, while Trump remains unmasked. Those two images reflect dueling campaign strategies that will unfold over the next four months.

Steven Roberts can be contacted by email at stevecokie@gmail.com.

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