CONCORD, N.C. — Donald Trump delivered closing arguments of sorts Thursday in this early-voting state, rallying his base of conservative, middle-class supporters and earning roars of approval as he ticked off his plans for his first 100 days in office.
“To all Americans, I say it’s time immediately for new leadership,” the GOP presidential nominee said at the Cabarrus Arena in suburban Charlotte. “It’s time to cut our ties with the bitter and failed politics of the past. Hillary Clinton is the candidate of yesterday.”
At his first of two stops in the Tar Heel State, which experts say he must win to have a chance at being elected, Trump was received like a rock star.
Later in Selma, North Carolina, Trump introduced several Medal of Honor recipients in attendance and thanked veteran and active military members for their bravery. He spent the start of his speech vowing better resources and support for the armed forces.
In Concord, he gave a fairly standard stump speech and did not break new ground on his platform, but he used his conversational-style delivery to fire up the crowd with nearly every line.
He vowed the “biggest tax cut since Ronald Reagan,” the end of “every unnecessary job-killing regulation,” the rebuilding of the “depleted military,” increased school choice, the protection of the Second Amendment and the appointment of Supreme Court justices who will “uphold and defend the Constitution.”
The Manhattan real estate mogul also again criticized his Democratic rival, noting the inner workings of her campaign as apparently revealed by WikiLeaks through hacked emails.
Trump said, “I have a winning temperament. Hillary is an unstable person.”
Sharon Malmberg, 61, of Denver, North Carolina, said the candidate’s appeal lies in the fact that he is not a polished politician.
“He’s a successful businessman. He has common sense,” said Malmberg, who works in insurance education. “He speaks to people like he’s talking across the table to them.”
Malmberg and her daughter, Morgan Malmberg, 25, of Charlotte, both sported “I Voted” stickers and said they had cast their ballots early for Trump.
When the nominee asked the crowd of thousands how many had already voted, the majority raised their hands and cheered.
Trump joked that even terminal illness shouldn’t keep his backers from the polls before or on Election Day on Tuesday.
“Get out there no matter how you feel. If you’re so sick, if your doctor gives you the worst prognosis, says, ‘Jimmy or Jane, I’m sorry to tell you but you won’t be around in two more weeks,” it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference,” he said to laughter. “You get out there and you vote.”
North Carolina is a tossup state, with a Real Clear Politics average of several recent polls in the state showing Trump and Clinton breaking just about dead even.
Clinton was also in the state on Thursday, delivering a speech simultaneously in Winterville. She was scheduled to stump later in Raleigh. To help the former secretary of state with the lagging African-American vote in the state, President Barack Obama was set to return here on Friday.
Trump said earlier Thursday at a stop in Jacksonville, Florida, that Obama should be at work in the Oval Office rather than campaigning for Clinton.
North Carolina is much more critical to Trump’s path to victory than Clinton’s, UNC-Charlotte political scientist Eric Heberlig said.
“It’s hard to envision how he gets to 270 electoral votes without North Carolina,” Heberlig said. “Mitt Romney won North Carolina in 2012 and still came up short.”
Black and young voter turnout has been lower than in years past, and Democrats have said the GOP-controlled state legislature’s shortening of the early-voting period is, in part, to blame, Heberlig said.