Donald Trump has to cancel North Carolina rally because of weather

Sunday, April 21, 2024
Trump rally in NC canceled due to severe weather
Former President Donald Trump was set to speak at the Aero Center at the Wilmington Airport.

WILMINGTON, N.C. -- Former President Donald Trump had to cancel his first planned rally since the start of his criminal hush money trial because of a storm in North Carolina, an added complication for the former president and presumptive Republican nominee as he juggles legal troubles and his rematch against President Joe Biden.

Trump called into the rally near the Wilmington airport less than an hour before he was scheduled to take the stage and apologized to a few thousand supporters who had gathered throughout the afternoon to express their support for the president.

Trump promised to reschedule a rally at the same location, with a "bigger and better" event.

The cancellation underscores the difficulty Trump faces as he tries to manage a presidential bid with a criminal trial that will keep him in court for most of the week. Opening arguments are expected in the trial on Monday.

Voters who had assembled were ready to stand by Trump, echoing his claims that multiple pending criminal indictments are an effort to take down the presumptive Republican nominee - and squelch the people who first propelled Trump eight years ago and want to return him to the White House again.

"It's political persecution, and if it were anybody else he wouldn't have to be dealing with it," said Christian Armstrong, a 28-year-old firefighter who lives in Wilmington and was attending his first Trump rally.

LeeAnn Coleman, a 42-year-old who is in a family restaurant business, said "It's ludicrous that he's having to do this at all," rather than spend time focusing on "all the problems he wants to fix."

Those sentiments validate or at least reflect Trump's strategy to use his mandated court time to his advantage by folding the proceedings, the first time an American president has faced felony criminal charges, into the same populist, anti-establishment arguments that first fueled his rise eight years ago.

"They want to keep me off the campaign trail," the candidate-turned-defendant insisted earlier this week in Harlem, where he visited a neighborhood convenience store and addressed a throng of media outside after spending the day at his own jury selection. Rather than pursue violent criminals, he alleged, "They go after Trump."

Saturday's event would have been the second time in as many months that Trump has come to the state.

The crowd evacuated including Brad Knott, who made the trip from Raleigh to attend the event. Knott is in a tight runoff race against Kelly Daughtry in the new 13th district for Congress covering part of the Triangle and was just endorsed by Trump.

"We have one choice and that's Donald Trump or Joe Biden, Donald Trump is the choice for secure borders, lower taxes, decreased regulation. Again there's one choice and that's Donald Trump," he said.

WATCH: Trump speaks at rally in Greensboro

Former president Donald Trump speaks in Greensboro ahead of Super Tuesday.

"The presidential race is going to run through North Carolina," Gov. Roy Cooper said in a recent interview.

North Carolina is one of seven states that both the Trump and Biden campaigns have said they will dedicate significant campaign resources to winning. Trump has insisted he wants to widen the map, even into his native New York, which is heavily Democratic.

Most Republicans, though, agree that Trump will have a difficult path to an Electoral College majority if Biden were to win North Carolina's 15 electoral votes. Trump tacitly acknowledged North Carolina's status by tapping then-state Republican Chairman Michael Whatley to lead his campaign's effective takeover of the Republican National Committee.

There is no precedent for the kind of campaign Trump now has to run - in North Carolina and nationally.

With opening arguments of his trial expected Monday, Trump will be confined to the courtroom for the foreseeable future, limiting his ability to see voters, fundraise and make calls. Biden, conversely, spent multiple days this week campaigning in Pennsylvania, another key battleground. Trump aides have promised weekend rallies and events on Wednesdays, the one weekday Trump's trial is expected to be in recess. The former president's campaign also has promised additional weeknight appearances around New York, as in Harlem.

That schedule pressures Trump to maximize his limited opportunities to reach voters and command media attention beyond his indictments.

In North Carolina, Biden's campaign already has hired statewide leadership and field organizers for offices across the state. That's on top of state party staff that began an organizing program last year ahead of municipal races and looking to this year's statewide races - including an open governor's race since Cooper is barred from seeking a third term.

"We needed to build energy on the ground early," said state Democratic Chairwoman Anderson Clayton, noting that the last Democratic presidential nominee to win North Carolina - Barack Obama in 2008 - had organized the state in a hotly contested primary campaign that ramped up the previous year.

Matt Mercer, spokesman for the North Carolina Republican Party, countered that veteran GOP staffers have been working in the state since the 2020 election cycle. Mercer said the GOP, from Trump to volunteers, will stress a family-first message around the economy and public safety.

Voters, Mercer said, "understand the importance of what those messages mean to them in their daily lives" and are "fed up" with Biden, "whether it's with sky-high inflation, the open southern border or the migrant crime crisis."

Trump will be joined Saturday by North Carolina Republican gubernatorial nominee Mark Robinson, whom Trump has endorsed and called "Martin Luther King on steroids." Robinson is the first Black lieutenant governor of the state.

Cooper won the governor's office narrowly in 2016 and 2020, swaying just enough swing voters even as Trump carried the state in each of those presidential contests.

Trump's visit to Wilmington comes after Cooper released a statement blaming Trump for North Carolina's abortion ban.

The governor argued that Biden's record - low unemployment, rising wages, stabilized inflation, infrastructure, and green energy investments - will resonate with a geographically and demographically diverse state.

"Joe Biden did more in his first two years than most presidents hope to do in two terms," Cooper said, adding that juxtaposing Biden's accomplishments with Trump's baggage will persuade enough voters to reelect the president.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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