Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence campaigned for Donald Trump Monday at Catawba College, urging voters to flock to the polls to oppose Democrat Hillary Clinton.
At the rally, Pence called President Barack Obama’s administration “weak” and “feckless” on foreign policy and blamed Clinton for creating a vacuum in the Middle East that gave rise to ISIS.
“Despite traveling millions of miles as our secretary of state, it’s undeniable that the world is more dangerous today than the day that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton took over American foreign policy,” Pence said. “Our allies are less secure, our enemies are more emboldened.”
Pence spent much of his 30-minute speech articulating the importance of winning North Carolina and how the state could not afford a Clinton presidency.
“This election really is about more than a choice between two people,” Pence said. “It’s really, in my book, a choice between two futures. So let me tell you where I stand. I choose a stronger America.”
He provided a sense of urgency to the roughly 500 people in attendance. Citing recent polls showing Trump and Clinton deadlocked in North Carolina, Pence talked about the high stakes.
“Here in North Carolina, it’s a one-point race,” he said. “This race is on, North Carolina. Don’t let them spin you any other way.”
A new Monmouth University Poll has Clinton with a statistically insignificant 1-point lead over Republican Donald Trump. According to RealClear Politics average of polls, Clinton is leading Trump 47.4 percent to 45 percent in North Carolina.
Campaigns are blitzing North Carolina this week with candidates and surrogates. Trump will visit Kinston on Wednesday, while Clinton will hold a rally with first lady Michelle Obama on Thursday at Wake Forest University.
The Clinton campaign has a packed schedule of surrogates in the state this week.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts will campaign for Clinton and Democratic Senate candidate Deborah Ross in Raleigh Tuesday. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean will campaign Tuesday in High Point and Burlington and Wednesday in Chapel Hill and Raleigh.
And former President Bill Clinton has a bus tour Tuesday and Wednesday in eastern North Carolina.
Lexington residents Steven Salois, 46, and Kenneth Nappier, 72, said they decided to attend their first political rally because of the sharp differences between Clinton and Trump.
Salois criticized the media for focusing more on Trump’s lewd 2005 comments in which he spoke about groping women than on his policies. He said Trump has evolved as a person throughout the course of the election.
“I don’t think that’s the same Trump today as it was a year ago. I really don’t,” Salois said. “You can tell in his voice what he says. If a person didn’t have a true conviction, he couldn’t say the things he says. I think his heart’s in the right track.”
Geoffrey Hoy, chairman of the Rowan County Democratic Party, criticized Trump’s remarks about women and said he should accept the outcome of the general election.
“We are most upset about Trump’s comments toward women … We need a president who respects the results of the election,” Hoy said.
Not everyone at the rally supported Trump. A couple of scattered disruptions took place as Pence spoke. Most notably, about 40 student protesters wearing black shirts were escorted out of the venue. As they left, they raised their fists – a symbol used to express solidarity and racial unity.
After the rally, a group of about 75 protesters chanted on the street across from Pence’s outdoor stage. Chants of “Catawba says ‘no,’” and “Dump Trump” broke loose.
Junior Frances Nyae, who is from Liberia in West Africa, said she has nothing against Pence. She came to protest Trump’s position on immigration.
“I’m an immigrant, I wasn’t born here … and the awful things he says about immigrants is not something nice for me being an immigrant,” Nyae said. “I would never give my vote to him.”
Pence contrasted Trump’s policies with those of Clinton. On the issue of immigration, Pence explained Clinton would increase the number of Syrian refugees by 550 percent. He said Trump would keep U.S. residents safe by tightening American borders.
A recurring theme in Pence’s speech was the need to prioritize U.S. interests, especially on trade.
“We’re going to continue to promote free trade, but trade under Donald Trump’s going to mean American jobs first,” Pence said.