Facing test in NC, Trump says Democrats want to wipe out his record
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – The day before a test of his political strength in a key state, President Donald Trump told North Carolina backers Monday that he needs Republican victories over the next 14 months because Democrats are out to reverse his accomplishments.
“They’ll try and take it away,” Trump told supporters from the eastern part of North Carolina, a day ahead of a closely-watched special House election in which the Republican is running hard on his ties to the president.
Previewing his own re-election bid in November of 2020, Trump spent nearly 90 minutes defending his record and savagely attacking Democrats and what he called “the America-hating left.”
At one point, Trump said “the other side” and its members are “not big believers in religion.” He also attacked them over gun rights and government regulations.
Trump spent much of his time on Tuesday’s special election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. While Trump won that area by nearly 12 points in 2016, polls indicated a tight race in the special election between the pro-Trump Republican candidate, Dan Bishop, and Democrat Dan McCready.
State officials nullified the results of the 2018 race in the district, citing evidence of election fraud designed to benefit the Republican candidate who narrowly defeated McCready.
McCready, a Marine veteran and a businessman, has pledged to work with members of both parties and denounced Trump-style partisanship and aggression.
“Today I stood with a bipartisan group of veterans to say we don’t care about your background or your political party, we care about putting our country first,” McCready tweeted as Trump flew to North Carolina. “Whether it’s lowering healthcare costs or strengthening public schools, we’ll work across the aisle to get it done.”
The result of the special election will likely be seen as a reflection of the president’s strength in what may be a must-win state in 2020.
“He has inserted himself” into the North Carolina race, said Susan Roberts, political science professor at Davidson College in the state, with the support of the Republican candidate. “It’s part of Bishop’s strategy.”
Invited to speak at the Fayetteville rally by Trump, Bishop bashed the news media and “the socialist Democrat party,” and said they are seeking “the president’s destruction every day.”
There is also another House race in North Carolina on Tuesday, one to fill the seat left by the late Rep. Walter Jones, who died in February. The Republican candidate is more of a favorite in that contest.
The White House double teamed North Carolina on Monday. Vice President Mike Pence, who introduced Trump in Fayetteville, had campaigned for Bishop earlier in the day in the Charlotte area.
Wayne Goodwin, chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party, said Trump and Pence visited the state “desperately trying to save a seat they won by double-digits in 2016.”
The Trump campaign has marked North Carolina as a key battleground. It is still considered a Republican state in presidential campaigns, but Democrats are making inroads and Barack Obama actually won it, barely, back in his 2008 race against Republican John McCain.
“It’s still a state where the Republicans have an advantage, but the advantage is shrinking,” said Duke political scientist David Rohde.
While bashing McCready and the Democrats, Trump also offered a preview of his own re-election effort a year from now.
Among other issues, Trump:
– Touted the economy, including favorable statistics on jobs and wages while downplaying fears of a recession down the line. “The economy is doing great,” he said.
– Promoted his border and immigration policies, spotlighting migrants who have committed crimes, and claiming that Democrats like McGready support “sanctuary cities.” Trump’s repeated pledge to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border drew huge cheers, as it does at all of his political rallies.
– Accused foreign allies of taking advantage of the United States on trade and military assistance, and said he is trying to stop it. “I’m not supposed to be the president of the world,” Trump said. “I’m supposed to be the president of the United States of America.”
– Defended his tariffs of Chinese products, claiming they will pressure Beijing into making a new trade agreement with the U.S. American farmers, including some in North Carolina, have criticized the tariffs that have been matched by China, raising their prices.
– Praised North Carolina for an effective response to damage from Hurricane Dorian. “You can take it,” Trump told Tar Heel State residents, and their state will “recover so fast.” Trump had planned to tour damaged areas on the state’s east coast, but hail and bad weather forced a cancellation of his plans.
The president won North Carolina over Democrat Hillary Clinton by less than 4 percentage points in 2016. Democrats say they are making a concerted effort to win the state next year, noting that Barack Obama carried it, barely, in 2008.
While predicting that Bishop would prevail on Tuesday, Trump supporters and aides said the result won’t affect his chances in North Carolina in 2020 one way or another.
“We don’t see this a bellwether for 2020,” said Kayleigh McEnany, national press secretary for the Trump campaign. “We see North Carolina as a Trump state.”
Signaling the importance they attach to the state, the Republicans scheduled their nominating convention next year in Charlotte.
This was Trump’s second visit to North Carolina in less than two months. His July visit generated criticism, coming at a time in which he was making racial attacks on a group of four minority, female and Democratic House members known as “the Squad.”
When Trump singled out Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who was born in Somalia and brought to the United States as a child refugee and later became a naturalized U.S. citizen, Trump supporters began chanting, “send her back!”
Trump supporters from North Carolina predicted he would take the state again in 2020, with or without a special election victory on Tuesday. Many cited a booming economy as the main reason, though they acknowledged that a downturn could create problems for the president.
“I’m confident – very confident, especially with our economy the way it is,” said Delta Nordhorn, 75, a retired teacher from Cary, N.C., who arrived more than an hour before the venue opened.
Holding an umbrella to fight off the afternoon sun, she added about the economy: “If something happens there, it could be a different story.”
Sandy Corbin Dowless, 55, a teacher’s assistant who lives in Fayetteville, said religious voters and military people are behind Trump, and that can only help in North Carolina.
As the open convention center floor filled up, Dowless said she isn’t crazy about the president’s aggressive style on social media, but, like other Trump backers, she also praised his direct style.
“I don’t like the fact he likes to tweet a lot,” Dowless said. “But he does speak his mind.”