Three days before North Carolina voters help determine the next president of the United States, Republican nominee Donald Trump preached to thousands of his believers on a tarmac in Wilmington.
“That was electrifying,” said Rodney Cox, a preacher from Southport, who brought his son to the rally. “But, then again, I already knew I was going to vote for him.”
Both Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton hopscotched the country Saturday, pleading to voters in states such as Florida, Nevada and Pennsylvania to help usher them into the White House. For months, both candidates have logged significant time in North Carolina, a battleground state pundits predict will help determine the race.
On Saturday, Trump assured his base, predicting a resounding victory in North Carolina and across the nation.
“In three days, we are going to win the great state of North Carolina. Then, we will win back the White House,” Trump shouted over applause.
Trump’s visit also helped buoy Republicans competing in tough state contests. Gov. Pat McCrory, a one-term Republican governor seeking re-election, took the stage before Trump and likened his fight against Democrat Roy Cooper to Trump’s match against Clinton. He criticized Cooper for producing few emails in a public records request, suggesting that it is similar to accusations that Clinton misused her security clearance as secretary of state when relying on a private email server.
“What is Roy Cooper hiding? The exact same thing as Hillary Clinton – the truth,” McCrory said before Trump arrived. “It’s time for the silent majority to quit whispering about their support.”
Thousands flocked to Wilmington International Airport on Saturday, waiting for hours in the sun to hear Trump speak about his plan for America. They were young and old, male and female and nearly entirely white. They cheered when Trump accused Clinton of being corrupt and in need of Vice President Joe Biden to stand up for her against Trump. And when Trump chastised the media for not being willing to show the volume of supporters at his rallies, the crowd turned to face the media and boo.
Trump stayed largely on message Saturday, following a prepared speech on a teleprompter. He offered bold promises. Keeping jobs in America; deporting immigrants in America illegally. He would dismantle ISIS soundly and swiftly. Trump vowed to lower taxes and rescue residents of inner cities plagued by violence and poor education.
“We will fix it,” Trump said. “What the hell do you have to lose?”
While Trump rallied voters in the sunshine of a crisp November day, Clinton was derailed by rain at a rally in Florida. She pared down her speech, struggling to make her hoarse voice heard above a downpour. Clinton will return to North Carolina on Monday, as will Trump.
“You must get out! Let’s vote for the future. Let’s vote for what we want for our country!” she said to close a boiled-down, seven-minute version of her usual stump speech.
The last eight years have been a nightmare, and I’m ready for a change for the sake of my grandchild
Joan Locklear, Democrat from Pembroke
Though gender has been central to the presidential race in recent months as Trump’s comments about women have been attacked as vulgar and inappropriate, women at Trump’s rally Saturday defended their choice to support him.
Joan Locklear, a lifelong Democrat from Pembroke, said gender did not dictate her choice.
“The last eight years have been a nightmare, and I’m ready for a change for the sake of my grandchild,” said Locklear.
Other female Trump supporters said they welcome the chance to vote for a female for president one day. Just not this female, not this time.
“I’d vote for a woman, but not someone as crooked as she is,” said Karen Hobbs of Wilmington.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Locke: 919-829-8927 or @MandyLockeNews