Trump blasts Biden in Winston-Salem, his third N.C. campaign event in just two weeks

President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up to supporters lined up along the street at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum in Jupiter, Florida after appearing a campaign rally on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS)
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By Jim Morrill The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) (TNS)

President Donald Trump blasted Democrat Joe Biden, China and “left-wing extremists” at a rally in Winston-Salem on Tuesday night, making his third visit to North Carolina in a little over two weeks.

“I’m running for reelection to keep jobs at home, to put violent criminals behind bars and to ensure the future belongs to America and not to China or other countries,” he said in a 75-minute address at Smith Reynolds Airport,

“If Biden wins, China wins,” Trump told supporters. “… Joe Biden’s agenda is made in China. My agenda is made in the USA.”

He sharply criticized what he called the “violent extremists, agitators (and) anarchists” who threaten American cities and suburbs. As he’s done before, he sought to link Biden to violent protesters. Biden has denounced street violence and drawn a distinction between looting and peaceful protests.

“Biden’s plan is to appease the domestic terrorists, my plan is to arrest them,” Trump said. “These are Biden supporters, and if he wins they’ll be in charge of your government.”

Earlier Tuesday, he spoke to a crowd in Jupiter, Florida, where he announced the extension of a ban on offshore oil drilling along that state’s coastline. Both North Carolina and Florida are swing states considered crucial to the Trump campaign.

Trump visited Wilmington last week and spoke to Republican National Convention delegates in Charlotte on Aug. 24. His family is campaigning hard in North Carolina. Son Eric Trump is scheduled to be in High Point Wednesday, and Donald Trump Jr., his eldest son, will speak in Hendersonville Thursday.

“(Trump) knows that this is neck and neck and he doesn’t have any breathing room, whereas last time he did,” said Doug Heye, a Republican strategist and Winston-Salem native, in an interview with The Observer. “North Carolina is very clearly a state he cannot afford to have flip.”

In Trump’s speech, he also took aim at Kamala Harris, who is running on Biden’s ticket for vice president, mispronouncing her name and criticizing her standing when she ran for president.

“She could never be the first woman president,” Trump said. “That would be an insult to our country.”

Trump won North Carolina by nearly 4 points in 2016. But polls show him virtually tied with Biden in the state, the Observer reported last week. Biden has essentially matched Trump and his allies on TV spending in North Carolina, according to Advertising Analytics.

Biden released two new ads in North Carolina Tuesday. One, aimed at the elderly, promises to protect Social Security and Medicare. The other covers several issues, including the pandemic. “We need to get control over the virus,” a narrator says. “Donald Trump failed. Joe Biden will get it done.”

In a statement released before Trump’s arrival, Biden said the president was unlikely to talk about the pandemic or the economy. There are nearly 179,000 cases of COVID-19 in the state, according to the state’s health department. More than 2,900 people have died of the coronavirus, as of Tuesday. The unemployment rate is 8.5%, down from spring’s double-digit highs.

“North Carolinians will not hear President Trump discuss how he plans to get this virus under control,” Biden said, “nor will they hear plans to safely restart our economy or provide much-needed relief to struggling workers, parents and small-business owners.” He added that Trump’s “mismanagement has cost too many North Carolinians their lives and livelihoods, with communities of color bearing the brunt of the devastation.”

The message was amplified in media calls by former Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue and Kathy Manning, Democratic candidate in the 6th Congressional District.

But Trump said Tuesday his coronavirus policies had “saved millions of lives.” He also predicted a vaccine by the end of the year. And he touted an economic policy that he said was poised for a sharp rebound in 2021.

A campaign spokesman touted Trump’s “record of results” for North Carolina. That includes a pre-pandemic unemployment rate of 3.6%, the addition of more than 290,000 jobs from May through July and millions of dollars to businesses through PPP loans.

“You have a situation where we built the greatest economy in the history of the world,” Trump said in Winston-Salem. “We were forced to close it because of the China plague that came in. … The unemployment rate is down to 8.4%. We’re opening it up. We’re going to have a great third quarter.”

Trump was greeted by a packed crowd that chanted “Four more years” and “USA, USA.” The audience included U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, U.S. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, current chief of staff Mark Meadows, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and several GOP Congress members.

Echoing remarks he made in Wilmington, Trump told supporters to mail in their absentee ballots and then go to the polls on Election Day to make sure they’re counted. He did not urge them to vote again. It’s illegal to vote more than once.

Trump alluded to last week’s article in the Atlantic that claimed he had disparaged fallen troops as “losers,” with many claims confirmed by Fox News and other news outlets. The president called it a “phony story.”

“Nobody loves the military more than me,” he said.

He touted his plans to ensure religious liberty, the Second Amendment, rebuild the military and the economy.

If Biden wins, he said, “the economy will collapse.”

Trump gave shout-outs to Tillis, who is seeking reelection against Cal Cunningham, as well as Forest, who is running against Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. Trump blamed Cooper for not opening the state and for keeping most of the Republican convention out of Charlotte.

“He said you’re allowed to have 10 people in the arena. Ten,” Trump said.

Cooper had asked convention officials for a plan to keep delegates safe during the pandemic.

Friday, the state loosened some of state’s coronavirus restrictions under Phase 2.5. Indoor gatherings increased from a 10-person limit to 25 people with outdoor limits going from 25 to 50. The Phase 2 mass gathering limits had been in place since May 22.

Trump took the convention briefly to Jacksonville, Florida, but held the nominations in Charlotte last month with 336 delegates.

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