Trump courts Sanders supporters in Winston-Salem

GOP Vice-Presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence, left, hugs N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory after he is introduced to the crowd in Winston-Salem Monday.
GOP Vice-Presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence, left, hugs N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory after he is introduced to the crowd in Winston-Salem Monday. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Attempting to capitalize on signs of disunity among Democrats gathered in Philadelphia, Donald Trump on Monday urged past opponents to join him against Hillary Clinton.

The Republican presidential candidate and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, spoke to about 4,000 people in Winston-Salem.

With several Republicans, including Sen. Richard Burr and Gov. Pat McCrory, joining him on the campaign trail for the first time, Trump focused on the Democratic Party primary process and the leak of Democratic National Committee emails that led to the resignation of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz as committee chairwoman.

“The system’s rigged and she (Wasserman Schultz) was rigging the system for Hillary,” Trump told supporters.

Trump was making his third visit to North Carolina in the last six weeks and his first since becoming the Republican nominee for president. He held a rally in Greensboro in June and visited Raleigh earlier this month.

Neither Burr nor McCrory joined him at those events, although McCrory participated in a fundraiser with him in Greensboro and Burr said weeks ago he would campaign with Trump.

Trump praised McCrory and Burr in an interview with The News and Observer before his speech. As for whether either could have a role in his administration: “Certainly, it’d be something I consider. We have plenty of applicants for plenty of jobs.”

In the interview, Trump also addressed the NBA’s decision to move its All-Star Game out of Charlotte because of the state’s LGBT law, House Bill 2.

“You don't like to lose a lot of your business, but at the same time, they (North Carolina legislators) have to stick to their principles, and I'm sure they'll be able to work something where everybody's going to be satisfied,” Trump said.

Trump made a push to win over supporters of defeated Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. Though the two have their share of differences, Trump cited their overlapping positions in opposition to key trade deals.

“We have one issue that's very similar, and that's trade,” Trump said. “He and I are similar in trade. The difference is I can do something about it. I'm going to bring jobs back to North Carolina ... The trade agreements we have are one-sided agreements for other countries, and it's disgraceful."

But during the rally, Trump called Sanders and his supporters “defeated” and said Sanders shouldn’t have given up.

Sanders supporters chanted over speakers at the Democratic National Convention on Monday, angry about leaked emails that showed the Democratic National Committee working against Sanders during the primaries.

Bruce McCall, 65, a Trump supporter from Greensboro, said the committee’s tactics should persuade Sanders supporters to back Trump.

“The whole system is rigged and Bernie’s people ought to come over and support Trump if for no other reason that it’s not Hillary,” McCall said.

Among Sanders supporters who have rejected Trump is Nida Allam, a recent N.C. State graduate and a Sanders delegate at the Philadelphia convention. While she doesn’t think Clinton has gone far enough in adopting some of Sanders’ progressive ideas, she said last week that fear of a Trump presidency was enough to make her support Clinton.

A Muslim, Allam is particularly concerned about Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

“For a presidential candidate to be proposing something that’s completely unconstitutional is ridiculous,” Allam told the News & Observer last week.

When asked about the Muslim ban proposal before the rally, Trump said he would place immigration restrictions on countries where terrorism is most prevalent.

“We’re going to make sure that territories where there’s lots of problems, they’re not coming into this country,” Trump said.

Despite challenges of his own in gaining support from fellow Republicans, Trump finds himself polling at an all-time best following the Republican National Convention. National and North Carolina polls show him in a close race with Clinton.

Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the state Republican Party, said some people are supporting Trump because of the general mistrust they have for Clinton.

“I don’t know why anybody would trust Hillary Clinton,” Woodhouse said at a news conference before the rally. “If you cheat and lie to your own voters, what will you do to the rest of the electorate? That’s why our ticket from top to bottom is going to be more attractive.”

“We have an election coming up with a very dishonest person,” Trump said. “She lied on the emails (and) she got away with it …We need change. We’ve got to get away from what we’re doing.”

Bryan Anderson: 919-829-8934, @bryanranderson