Staking her hopes of carrying North Carolina partly on college students, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton spoke Sunday at an outdoor rally at UNC Charlotte and will return to the state Thursday to appear with Michelle Obama at Wake Forest University.
Besides the first lady, who is popular with young female voters, the Clinton campaign will bring Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. – another Clinton surrogate who’s a hit with millennials – to North Carolina to campaign in the university-rich Triangle on Tuesday.
On Sunday, speaking to 3,200 people at UNC Charlotte, Clinton touted her plan to make college tuition-free for students from families earning less than $125,000. That was a concession she made to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who supported that plan when he ran against Clinton in the Democratic primary.
For families earning more than $125,000, Clinton said, college would be “debt-free.”
While many young voters have been less than enthused about seeing Clinton in the White House, polls say that they are alarmed at the prospect of her rival Republican rival Donald Trump as president.
So, Clinton spent much of her speech at UNC Charlotte targeting Trump.
She mocked the New York businessman for losing nearly $1 billion 20 years ago, a loss that may have allowed him to avoid paying federal income taxes for years.
“I don’t know how smart you have to be to lose $1 billion,” Clinton said.
“And how can you lose $1 billion running casinos?” she added. “You know the expression, the house always wins?”
She said Trump is “unqualified and unfit” to be president and called his refusal in their final debate to say he would respect the Nov. 8 election result a “direct threat to our democracy.”
“I have to admit, when we were both asked, I assumed he would say, ‘Of course.’ ” Instead, he gave an answer, Clinton told the crowd, that amounts to a “direct threat to our democracy.”
That third debate, in which Trump called Clinton “a nasty woman,” appears to have resonated with at least some students at UNC Charlotte. One woman wore a T-shirt Sunday that read “Nasty women make history” – a nod to the fact that Clinton would be the first woman elected president of the United States if she wins next month.
Roman Green, 20, junior at UNC Charlotte, is a Republican who represented his college group at the GOP convention. But he said he’s voting for Clinton because he’s turned off by Trump.
“Trump’s not a conservative at all, he’s dysfunctional,” said Green, who wore a John Kasich T-shirt. “I think our economy is going to be much more stable under Clinton.”
In advance of Clinton’s visit, the Republican National Committee issued a statement criticizing her: “Hillary Clinton has proven that the only thing North Carolinians can trust her to do is look out for herself. Her pattern of serial dishonesty is completely unacceptable for a candidate seeking the nation’s highest office and Tar Heel State voters deserve better.”
Clinton is ahead of Trump by 6 points in polls nationally, according to RealClear Politics’ average of polls. During her Sunday visit to Charlotte she seemed to look beyond the election.
“I want to make this serious point,” Clinton said. “Some of you know people who will vote for Trump. I want them to know, I want to be the president for every American – Democrats, Republicans, independents. We have to bring this country together. We have to have everyone pulling in the same direction. I understand some people are angry, but anger is not a plan.”
She made a self-deprecating joke about her fondness for policy and making plans.
“Maybe it’s a woman’s thing, but we make lists,” she said. “But I feel strongly that everything I am proposing is doable.”
How will she pay for her plans?
“I’m going where the money is,” she said, vowing to raised taxes on “millionaires, billionaires and corporations” who have made out well in the economy and must now “pay their fair share.”
Clinton also spent much of the speech discussing some of her economic proposals – and how it can help young people find more and better job opportunities.
She said she wants to make America a leader in clean technology and high-tech manufacturing. She said she will push to raise the minimum wage so “people aren’t mired in poverty.”
Still, the election campaign isn’t over yet, and the crowd Sunday included some hecklers and a chant of “Lock her up,” referring to Clinton. UNC Charlotte police said the Secret Service also reported an altercation involving a Trump backer.
Clinton’s event came during the fourth day of early voting and just days after her running mate, Tim Kaine, visited the state. Kaine campaigned in Charlotte and Durham Thursday and in Asheville Wednesday. Like him, Clinton on Sunday urged those in her audience to vote early.
Her event was at the same campus where President Barack Obama held the final rally of his 2008 campaign.
Clinton also campaigned earlier Sunday in Raleigh, where was joined on stage by five Mothers of the Movement – women whose children have been killed in gun violence or police-involved incidents.
In a sign of the importance of North Carolina – and Charlotte in particular – in the presidential race, this is Clinton’s fifth visit to the city since July. Clinton last visited Charlotte Oct. 2, when she addressed congregants of Little Rock AME Zion, a historic black church.
By comparison, President Barack Obama didn’t campaign in the city in 2012 after the Democratic National Convention held in Charlotte that September.
Trump has held three rallies in Charlotte since July.
Trump held a rally on Friday in Fletcher near Asheville, and he returns to the state for a rally in Kinston in eastern North Carolina on Wednesday. His son, Eric Trump, also visited an early voting site in Charlotte on Friday.
Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, has rallies on Monday in Salisbury and Greensboro. Also Monday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Charlotte’s former mayor, will campaign for Clinton in Carrboro, Greensboro and Charlotte.
According to RealClear Politics average of polls, Clinton is leading Trump 47 percent to 44.2 percent in North Carolina.