Donald Trump promised supporters from the mountain towns of western North Carolina on Friday that he will bring jobs back to the state – and keep the ones already here – if he is elected president.
“Your companies won’t be leaving North Carolina under a Trump administration,” the Republican nominee told more than 2,000 people at the WNC Agricultural Center in Henderson County.
The noontime rally was his first of four in battleground states planned for Friday. And it was his second stop in North Carolina – a must-win state for him – in a week.
“Win, lose or draw ... I never want to look back and say, ‘If only I did one more rally, I would have carried North Carolina,’” he told the crowd. He added a plea for them to match his hard work between now and Election Day by voting early and getting all their friends to the polls.
Trump did not address whether he would support the results of the election if he loses. His refusal at this week’s final presidential debate to agree to abide by the vote dominated the next day’s headlines.
Trump did pursue a new line of attack Friday against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by alleging that she received a primary season debate question in advance from Donna Brazile, who was a CNN contributor. Brazile, interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, has suggested the leaked email containing the allegation was forged, Politico reported.
Trump said if he had received a question in advance, the news media would have punished him with “a more sinister version of the electric chair.”
He cited Charles Van Doren from the 1950s, who had been given questions in advance on the then-popular quiz show “Twenty One.”
“His life was ruined,” Trump said. “Can you imagine if I got the questions and they found out?”
When he accused Clinton of being the most corrupt person to seek the presidency, the crowd erupted with a chant of “Lock her up! Lock her up!”
Trump, who has threatened to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton if he becomes president, said he has to win first. Then, he told his supporters that he and they can “explore ... options.”
The Brazile allegation came from a WikiLeaks release of emails from Clinton’s campaign chief, John Podesta.
“Boy we love WikiLeaks,” Trump said.
He said the Podesta emails also showed Clinton has “great hostility towards Catholics, towards evangelicals.”
In advance of Trump’s campaign event in Fletcher, Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer criticized the candidate in a statement.
“What we heard on the debate stage on Wednesday should deeply trouble all Americans. After spending months attacking different ethnic and religious groups, Donald Trump, in an act of desperation, has now attacked the very legitimacy of this election,” Manheimer said. “I’m proud to stand with Americans from across the political spectrum, including the Republican Party of North Carolina, in condemning this unprecedented attack on a pillar of our democracy.”
Before the rally, supporters explained why they planned to vote for Trump.
“He speaks his mind,” said Shirley Sales of Fletcher, who showed up early. “It’s about time we had somebody speak for me. It’s time for a change.”
Added her friend, Cyndie House of Mills River: “We need a leader with backbone.”
Others said they backed Trump’s defiance on not agreeing ahead of time to concede the election if he loses.
Jim Keenan, a carpenter in Black Mountain, pointed to other hacked emails released by WikiLeaks showing that top Democratic Party officials schemed behind the scenes to help Clinton win her Democratic primary battle with Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“I wish (Trump) would have attacked Hillary in the debate by saying, ‘After what you did to Bernie Sanders, after all those shenanigans, you want me to trust you?’” Keenan said.
Many of those at the rally appeared to be as much anti-Clinton as pro-Trump.
“She’s a crook,” said Larry Peters, a retiree from Fairview in Buncombe County.
His wife Trudi, a former schoolteacher, agreed. Clinton, she said, “is evil.”
U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, the only current GOP member of Congress to show up, greeted the crowd – “Hello, deplorables!” – by alluding to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s much-criticized description of “half” of Trump supporters.
Jonathan Adiches, who sold Trump campaign buttons outside the Friday rally, reported that his hottest seller was one that reads “Deplorable Lives Matter,” a take-off on both Clinton’s comment and the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
Friday’s crowd was predominantly white and cheered when Trump said he would “fix” the inner cities, which he described as a virtual war zone resulting in the violent death of many African-Americans.
Attending her fourth Trump rally Friday was Kara Matthews, 27, formerly of Charlotte, who held up a homemade sign that read “This Lesbian Voted for Donald Trump.”
Matthews, who now lives in Hendersonville, said she is a Wiccan, a member of a religious movement that is also called Pagan Witchcraft.
Though Matthews said many religious conservatives in the Republican Party opposed gays and lesbians, she is backing Trump because “he wants to get rid of corruption and career politicians. ... Every time I leave a Trump rally, I feel good for a week.”
Clinton to speak Sunday in Charlotte, Raleigh
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will campaign in Charlotte and Raleigh on Sunday, the fourth day of the state’s early voting period.
She will campaign in Raleigh with “Mothers of the Movement” – women whose children died after altercations with law enforcement officers. Her Charlotte event is at UNC Charlotte.
Her visit comes just days after her running mate, Tim Kaine, visited the state. Kaine campaigned in Charlotte and Durham Thursday and in Asheville Wednesday.
Clinton’s Charlotte event is at at Belk Plaza at UNC Charlotte at 5:30 p.m. Doors open at 3 p.m. The public may RSVP at hillaryclinton.com.
Clinton last campaigned in Charlotte Oct. 2, when she addressed congregants of Little Rock AME Zion, a historically black church.
According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, Clinton is leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump 47 percent to 44.2 percent in North Carolina.