Speaking to thousands of supporters in Gastonia, President Donald Trump Wednesday night painted a dire image of an America led by Democrat Joe Biden.
“If Biden wins, the flag-burning demonstrators in the street will be running your federal government,” he said. “They will re-educate your children (and be) letting rioters and MS-13 killers roam free without masks.”
Trump spoke to an estimated 15,000 people who crowded into the Gastonia Municipal Airport. Roads around the airport were jammed hours ahead of Trump’s arrival.
Analysts say the state and its 15 electoral votes are crucial for Trump, who is making his seventh appearance in North Carolina since he spoke to Republican convention delegates in Charlotte on Aug. 24.
“I’ve been all over your state,” Trump told the crowd. “You better let me win.”
North Carolina is a battleground where Trump and Biden have been virtually deadlocked for months. Biden holds a narrow, 2.3-point lead in Real Clear Politics’ average of a half-dozen recent polls.
Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris campaigned in Charlotte Wednesday and attended an event at uptown’s Truits Field around the same time as Trump’s event.
Trump’s appearance came the night before his final debate with Biden in Nashville.
In a speech that strayed from topic to topic, Trump criticized Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and his response to the coronavirus, the media, “tech giants,” and China
“If Biden wins, China will own the United States,” Trump said.
He said Joe Biden would raise taxes. Biden has said he would only raise taxes on those making more than $400,000.
Despite four years in office, Trump portrayed himself as as outsider.
“If I don’t sound like a typical Washington politician,” he said. “It’s because I’m not a politician.”
The event attracted supporters who cheered and clapped at nearly every proclamation.
Army veteran Sylvia Luvker was among the early arrivals to see the president. Luvker, 68, who said she’s a Christian, said that Israel is the center of the world for her and one of her top issues.
“He’s God’s man,” said Luvker, who lives in Hickory. “If you can get the embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, then he’s God’s man.”
She said the only reason she was wearing a mask was “because they told us to.”
“COVID’s real, but so much of the talk of it is fake,” she said.
Trump touted his record, including his steps to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed 220,000 Americans and has shown signs of spiking across the country. The president himself was hospitalized with the coronavirus earlier this month and treated with Regeneron and other drugs.
“I woke up the next morning and I felt like Superman,” Trump said.
The president’s visit came the same day Cooper extended Phase 3 of the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as new coronavirus cases reached highs not seen in months. That means capacity limits will remain in place for restaurants and breweries as well as for mass gatherings. Those limits don’t apply to political rallies like Trump’s.
Biden’s campaign released a new ad in the Charlotte market Wednesday that played off the rise in coronavirus cases. Against pictures of Trump at rallies, a narrator says, “He swore an oath to protect us. But now he’s on a reckless campaign tour, infecting us . . . Holding potential super-spreader events in state after state.”
The campaign also sent a mobile billboard around Gaston County with the numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths in North Carolina.
“Nearly 4,000 North Carolinians have died due to COVID-19 and nearly 250,000 have tested positive, but President Trump still has no plan on how to get this virus under control,” Biden said in a statement. “Instead, he is attacking our nation’s leading scientists . . . continuing to spread deadly misinformation about the virus, and holding rallies that fly in the face of North Carolina’s COVID-19 guidelines.”
Trump called on Cooper to “open the state up.” Trump also called Cooper’s Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, on stage. Forest compared Cooper to Biden.
“Their job is to destroy, not to build up,” Forest said. “President Trump has done more for the United States of America in the last 46 months than Joe Biden has done in the last 46 years.”
Before Trump arrived, Forest told the crowd he would repeal Cooper’s mask mandate if elected.
Trump praised allies like Fox New pundit Tucker Carlson and radio host Rush Limbaugh. Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx, whose 5th District now includes Gaston and Cleveland counties, called the presidential race “a choice election.”
“Do we want to continue being the freest nation in the world?” she asked the crowd before Trump arrived. “It’s a simple issue. This election is about freedom or more government control. That’s the choice.”
Chip Bowles, a 74-year-old from Huntersville, said he voted for Trump when he lived in Florida in 2016 “and I’m obviously voting for him again.”
“I want him to finish the wall, I want him to bring companies back to the U.S. He knows how to do it — give them tax breaks,” he said. “We don’t always like what he says, but he gets things done. More than any other president, he gets things done. He’s building a wall. He got tax breaks passed.”
About a third of the wall is complete, though few new sections have been built during Trump’s term.
No official crowd size was available. Police and firefighters on site directed questions on crowd size and public health to the U.S. Secret Service. The Secret Service on site declined to speak to the Observer.
This article is published through the N.C. News Collaborative, a partnership of Lee Enterprises, Gannett and McClatchy newspapers in
North Carolina that aims to better inform readers throughout the state.
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