Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump promised to bring jobs back to North Carolina as part of a speech centered on his domestic agenda.
“There will be consequences if companies leave North Carolina,” he said. “If they knew there was retribution, if they knew there were consequences, they wouldn’t even be thinking about it.”
As the presidential campaign hits the post-Labor Day stretch, North Carolina’s status as a coveted prize was on full display Tuesday. Democrat Hillary Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, appeared in Durham on her behalf, and Tim Kaine, her running mate, spoke in Wilmington. Hillary Clinton plans to campaign in Charlotte on Thursday.
It would be difficult for Trump to win the presidency without winning North Carolina, and polls show the race here is a toss up.
Never miss a local story.
He urged the crowd to vote, reminding them that they could begin casting ballots before Nov. 8.
“You must get out and vote, you must bring all of your friends,” he said. “Be vigilant. Watch what’s happening. We’re going to win in North Carolina because we’re going to take back the White House.”
Trump bashed his opponent Hillary Clinton as unfit to be president.
He leveled a string of criticisms on Clinton and her aides for their handling of her email while she was secretary of state.
He said their actions amounted to a cover-up “like Watergate, but worse.”
“Just remember this is a phony group of lying people,” Trump said.
As if on cue, the crowd responded to sections of the speech with chants of “build that wall,” “USA, USA,” cheers, or boos when Trump turned his focus to Clinton.
John Demelis of Greenville called himself “a Republican conservative” who is “absolutely” voting for Trump.
“He’s a person who makes things happen,” said Demelis, 60. “He’s not a politician. He’s a doer.”
Protesters gathered on the sidewalk before the speech chanted, “Band together against hate.”
In advance of the Trump appearance, Pitt County Democratic Chairman Sonny McLawhorn said Trump has “never stood for working people,” and listed Trump-branded clothing made in other countries. Clinton’s proposals would help small businesses and family farms, he said.
“Tonight, when he looks out on the adoring crowd in Greenville, he has no clue about their daily lives, no concern about their struggles,” McLawhorn said. “To him, the people in the crowd are a collection of stage props.”
In the Greenville Convention Center, Trump made a now familiar plea for African-American and Hispanic votes before the largely white crowd. National polls show Trump’s African-American support in the single digits.
“She sees them only as votes,” Trump said of Clinton. “Not people worthy of a better future.”
Though many African-Americans have succeeded, Trump said, millions live in poverty, are unemployed, and send their children to failing schools.
“Fifty-eight percent of African-American youth aren’t working. They can’t get a job,” he said. “There are nearly 4,000 people killed in Chicago since Obama took office. This is a national crisis. Anybody who fails to understand that is not fit to seek the presidency of the United States.”
Some rally goers before the speech said they were leaning toward Trump, but wanted to hear more from him.
Nelda Lowe, a retired teacher from Grimesland, said she’d like to support Trump and likes his ideas on the economy and immigration, but thinks he needs to be mindful of how he gets his message across.
“He needs a better filter of what he says before he says it,” said Lowe, 58. “His ideas are basically good.”