Donald Trump’s latest complaint about Hillary Clinton is that she’s cribbing his style. “Do people notice Hillary is copying my airplane rallies,” he wrote in a Twitter post on Tuesday morning. “She puts the plane behind her like I have been doing from the beginning.”
The observation is strange not just because it’s petty, but because it ignores the long history of presidential campaigning. Candidates have been holding rallies in front of campaign planes for ages.
The campaign-plane backdrop makes sense, logistically, given the chaos of a jam-packed campaign. The fastest way for a politician to reach the most voters in the least amount of time is to have people come to them as they’re traveling. But the imagery itself is important, too. Private planes project wealth and power. So it’s easy to see why Donald Trump would want to promote such an image: He’s obsessed with both.
But there’s nothing original about addressing voters this way. In fact, the picture of a presidential candidate standing in front of a plane is deeply baked into the imagery of U.S. presidential campaigns.
There are many, many more such photos. You can see Walter Mondale standing in front of his campaign plane, nicknamed Minnesota Fritz, in 1984, and Jimmy Carter standing in front of his plane, “Peanut One,” in 1976.