President Donald Trump made his seventh campaign visit to North Carolina this election year to Greenville on Thursday, where he told about 1,000 supporters at Pitt-Greenville Airport to get out and vote, boasted of the number of votes he got during the 2016 election, and touted Republican plans for the country.
“For years, you had a president who apologized for America. Now, you have a president who is standing up for America and standing up for the great people of North Carolina,” Trump said toward the end of his speech.
“So again, this is the most important election of our lives, maybe in the history of our country. So get your friends, get your family, get your neighbors, get out and vote! The red wave is coming. The red wave is coming,” Trump said to cheers.
Supporters from Greenville and around the state began filing into the event stage on the tarmac of the airport early Thursday morning, bringing their families and friends, donning MAGA hats and outfits made out of the American flag, and wearing face masks saying, “Trump Pence.” They waited in the sun and got refreshments from food trucks parked on site.
As the crowd waited for Trump’s arrival, the music started and the Trump campaign blasted hits like “YMCA,” Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean,” “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion, and Andrea Bocelli’s “Time to Say Goodbye.” The energy kept up and the rally almost felt like an old style rock concert, or a state fair.
Catherine Truitt, Republican candidate for North Carolina State Superintendent, spoke ahead of Trump’s arrival.
“Do you believe parents should have control over where kids go to school? Do you agree with President Trump that students belong in schools and it’s time to open schools safely?” Truitt said. “We do not need more one size fits none mandates from Roy Cooper.”
Trump was scheduled to speak at 1 p.m. At about 1:30 p.m., the crowd finally glimpsed Air Force One, still so far away in the sky that it was barely visible. The crowd turned and all attention focused, people watched as Air Force One slowly became bigger and descended into the airport. Loud cheers erupted when it landed and made its way toward the event stage.
The plane parked right behind the podium and the flags set up for Trump’s speech. Trump finally came out of the plane and walked down to the podium, and the crowd chanted, “USA! USA!”
“It’s fantastic to be back in North Carolina with thousands of loyal, hardworking Americans,” Trump started his speech. “Nineteen days from now, we’re going to win the state of North Carolina and we’re going to win four more years in the White House. The choice is very simple. If Biden wins, China wins.” At this, the crowd boo’ed. “And if we win, North Carolina wins and America wins.”
Trump touched on the major talking points he has had throughout this election year: Jobs, China, building a wall, rebuilding the economy.
Like at other rallies in North Carolina, one of the biggest cheers he received was when he criticized Gov. Roy Cooper for the state’s lockdowns from the coronavirus.
“In 2016, North Carolina voted out the corrupt political establishment and you elected an outsider as president of the United States,” he said. “I don’t sound like a typical Washington politicians. It’s because I’m not a politician.” At this, the crowd cheered.
“By the way, North Carolina, tell your governor, ‘Open up your state! Open up your schools!’” The cheers grew more louder.
Chants of “USA!” “Four more years,” and “We love you,” rang out and blended from one to the next from the crowd.
Trump’s visit to Greenville marked a turning point in the perceptions and needs of voters in North Carolina. Supporters at the rally were ready to hear more about policy.
“I am planning to vote. I’m just weighing my options right now,” said Angelene Mitchell, 60, a businesswoman in Greenville, who came to rally because she wanted to hear what Trump has to say.
“I like that he’s about minorities being on board with a lot of things, not just where you want them to be at,” Mitchell said, and added that she was particularly concerned about jobs.
“[Trump] says, ‘A lot of jobs,’ but a lot of them were factory,” she said. “There are a lot of degree-holding, young African-Americans without jobs.”
“I’m not knocking him. He’s bringing jobs back. I don’t believe that we should be exporting all of our benefits to other countries,” Mitchell said, referring to Trump’s trade deal moves to bring jobs back to the U.S.
“He knows how to go after people and win people,” Mitchell said, and added, “But he is a little pompous.”
Maria Johnson, 39, came to the rally from Smithfield with her family. “It’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” she said. “This is a president who is doing something.” When asked if she was voting for Trump, she replied, “Absolutely.”
“I believe he has the country in his best interests,” Johnson said. “I like how he includes himself in public conversation.”
Johnson said she liked that Trump supports the military, and she was also concerned about the economy. “We keep shutting things down. I don’t know about swiftly opening up, but we’ve got to do something,” she said.
Zac Lanto, 21, came to Greenville from Emerald Isle. “He’s for America and for the military,” Lanto said. He said he liked Trump’s stance on immigration, and didn’t like Biden or his running mate Kamala Harris.
Ray “Rayzor” Reynolds, a photographer who has followed the Trump campaign to every rally since 2015, said the Greenville event would be his 74th.
Reynolds, who is from South Carolina, said what drew him to Trump was when he lost his parents. He didn’t feel his mother was taken care of under the Affordable Care system, or Obamacare. In 2017, he wrote a book, “The Trump Movement: My Plan, My Purpose,” about his experiences.
“I think it’s going to be a landslide,” Reynolds said. “For every 100 people I see, there’s 10 Democrats. New Jersey about five months ago, that was the biggest rally I had been to.”
Reynolds said he will turn 60 years old next year. “I need insurance. A third of my income goes to health care.”
A 36-year-old man who only wanted to go by the name, J.C., said of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, “It’s kind of disappointing that’s the Democratic national opponent.”
“I don’t know what he stands for. The ’94 crime bill, that really hurt the black community,” J.C. said. “And many times, I’ve seen him say, ‘I don’t work for you.’ And as an elected official, he should be working for the public, for us.”
“I don’t know if he can be trusted,” he said.
Trump’s visit to Greenville on Thursday was more relaxed and a clear contrast to the last time he came to the city. In July 2019, to kick off his campaign for re-election, Trump held a rally at East Carolina University’s Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum. The crowd reacted vehemently when he blasted the freshmen congresswomen referred to as, “the Squad,” in particular Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota.
The crowd chanted, “Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!”
The moment made headlines around the world.
This time, Trump’s visit did not have the same intensity. It was a different crowd, one that treated the rally as a more casual gathering. As Trump’s speech went on, people also listened more intently and waited for policy points, and began filing out when they grew tired.
Trump also laid into Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, embroiled in a scandal this week over his business deals in Ukraine. “Facebook can try to shut us down, but you know what? Everybody knows it,” he said. “How does this kid of the vice president walk into countries and walk away with deals with no talent, no skill and no expertise – and the press doesn’t want to cover it?”
Trump boasted of his election results in 2016 and how he and his campaign watched the results come in from various states. “Then we won a place called North Carolina! So it went from 25 to 32 percent. You remember that evening? That was a great evening,” he reminisced.
As the event wound down and Trump returned to Air Force One, Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” played over the speakers and the departing crowd turned toward the plane, gathering at the barriers and waving. Just as the song was ending, Air Force One took off. Trump was heading toward the NBC-hosted Town Hall in Florida scheduled for Thursday evening.