After a spate of bomb scares, President Donald Trump on Friday decried “the politics of anger and destruction” during a rally at Charlotte’s Bojangles’ Coliseum, even as he slammed the media for “constant unfair coverage.”
“Everyone will benefit if we end the politics of personal destruction,” he said. “We must unify as a nation in peace, love and harmony. …The media has a major role to play whether they want to or not.”
Trump’s visit was part of a flurry of almost three-dozen pre-election rallies by the president. Many of the nearly 9,000 supporters waved signs with slogans like “Jobs vs Mobs,” and “Make America Strong Again.” The president talked about immigration, trade and taxes as well as his newest Supreme Court justice.
“This will be the election of the Kavanaughs and the caravans,” he said.
In remarks lasting more than an hour, Trump gave what could be a rehearsal for an acceptance speech at the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte. He touted his record and swatted away issues that Democrats are likely to use against him.
Trump came to rally support for Republican congressional candidates Mark Harris in the 9th District and Rep. Ted Budd in the 13th. Each is in a close race. Democrats Dan McCready in the 9th and Kathy Manning in the 13th have each outraised their GOP opponent.
“They’re doing very well,” Trump said of the GOP candidates. “But honestly, get out and vote. Let’s not take a chance.”
Trump called McCready “another extreme liberal trying to fool voters into believing he’s a moderate.” McCready, a former Marine, has pledged to put “country over party.”
Manning, the president said, is “a leftie and she’s always going to be voting on the left.
“A vote for any Democrat anywhere in the country is a vote to put Nancy Pelosi in the speaker’s chair,” Trump said.
Neither the McCready or Manning campaign could be reached, but both have said they would not support Pelosi.
Before the rally, the McCready campaign wrote: “We can expect a whole new slate of lies told and insults hurled, all in order to divide people and give Harris an edge.”
‘Attacks have consequences’
Trump’s visit came hours after authorities arrested a Florida man with ties to Charlotte on charges related to what officials called improvised explosive devices sent to at least 13 Trump critics. Cesar Sayoc once played soccer at UNC Charlotte. Police hauled off his van, which was covered with pro-Trump stickers.
Earlier Friday, before Sayoc’s arrest, Trump appeared to lament that the pipe bomb story was dominating the news.
“Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this ‘Bomb’ stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows — news not talking politics,” he tweeted.
Critics say Trump shares the blame for the nation’s divisions, with his persistent attacks on Democrats and the media.
“This week’s events have shown that President Trump’s lies, rhetoric, and attacks have consequences,” state Democratic Chair Wayne Goodwin said in a statement.
Despite Trump’s calls for civility, he talked about “cryin’ Chuck” Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, Friday night. As in 2016, he elicited chants of “Lock her up.”
Some backers sported shirts spelling out their support for the president and his attacks on the press and Democrats. Bill Williamson, 42, offered no apologies for his T-shirt, which showed a cartoonish image of Trump urinating on the CNN logo.
Asked about suggestions that Trump’s language encourages violence, Williamson said “most of the rhetoric” is coming from Democratic leaders. News about the bombs is designed to be “a distraction from the caravan,” he said, a reference to the thousands of Central Americans making their way to the U.S. in hopes of winning asylum.
Richard Childress, a NASCAR owner, told the crowd before Trump spoke that the press didn’t give Trump credit for his successes.
Instead, he said, “the press is beating down on him.” That prompted many in the crowd to turn toward the area where reporters, including those from CNN, were working. They booed, turned down their thumbs and chanted “CNN Sucks!”
Trump touted what he called his administration’s accomplishments including tax cuts, reduced regulations and new trade deals. But earlier, two Democratic members of Congress from North Carolina blasted the president and his policies in a conference call with reporters.
Reps. David Price and Alma Adams said tax cuts went mostly to the wealthy and health care costs are rising because of what they called the failure to deal with the increasing drug costs.
“We’ve never seen a president as reckless, dangerous, as unfit as this one,” Price said.
At the rally, both Budd and Harris praised the president.
“You may indeed go down as the most truthful president in history,” Harris said. “He told us he was going to roll back regulations and stimulate this economy, and guess what?”
Most analysts call the 9th District race a toss-up. McCready has outraised Harris, pulling in $4.9 million to Harris’ $1.8 million, according to new reports.
The race has also attracted $5.6 million in outside spending, with most — $3.4 million — on behalf of McCready. Even with a financial advantage, McCready loaned his campaign $500,000 this week.
McCready has tried to run as a centrist, emphasizing his military service. He’s largely refrained from criticizing Trump directly, even as Harris embraces the president and his positions.
Harris, a former pastor, has tried to tie McCready to Pelosi. He warns that if McCready wins it could help Pelosi become speaker, even though McCready has said repeatedly that he won’t vote for Pelosi.
In the final weeks before the midterms, Trump has been crisscrossing the country to boost Republican candidates. In the past week, he’s held a rally in Houston with Sen. Ted Cruz, as well as headlining rallies in Mesa, Ariz., Elko, Nev., and Mosinee, Wisc. On Saturday, he’s heading to Murphysboro, Ill., for his fifth rally of the week.
Trump has stoked fears of a migrant caravan that’s about 1,000 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, slammed the media and proudly branded himself a “nationalist.”
Friday’s event was the president’s second visit to Charlotte for Harris and Budd. He headlined a fundraiser for them at the end of August.
A cavalcade of other high-profile Republicans have blitzed the 9th District in recent weeks to support Harris, including Donald Trump Jr., the president’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump, the vice president’s wife Karen Pence, Sen. Lindsey Graham and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
McCready’s campaign has brought in supporters including musician James Taylor, hosting a fundraiser Friday night, civil rights icon and Georgia congressman John Lewis, former Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind. and someone who’s seen as a rising star for Democrats nationally.