FAYETTEVILLE — Robeson County’s GOP leader said remarks about trade and the economy from his party’s nominee for president at a rally in Fayetteville Tuesday rang true for Robeson County.
Phillip Stephens, chairman of the county’s Republican Party, was among about 10 Robeson volunteers working at Donald Trump’s Tuesday rally, with another 30 Robesonians watching from a VIP section.
Stephens said Trump spent much of his address talking about economic policies and how the region was devastated by the NAFTA free trade agreements negotiated by President Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress in the 1990s.
“Trump said that he had been around the area prior to the rally and was told how NAFTA, the free trade agreement, had destroyed the region,” said Stephens. “But then he said something that’s very significant to Robeson County and that is that there has never been a free trade agreement. He said it is not free trade when China sends things over here and doesn’t pay tariffs or anything, but when we send products to China, we do pay tariffs. He said that politicians often negotiate these kind of deals which are not good for the country and when he is president he will negotiate differently.”
Trump held a rally Tuesday afternoon at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington before heading to Fayetteville, where he held his second campaign event this year at the Crown Arena.
At both stops, the Republican nominee addressed the economy, national security and his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. With the nation’s largest military base nearby in Fort Bragg, Trump stressed the need to beef up America’s military, increase trade and build a wall along the Mexican border in order to stem illegal immigration.
In Fayetteville, Trump was introduced by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Rep. Robert Pittenger, who represents North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, which now includes Robeson, also spoke at the rally.
Stephens said the Crown Arena was packed — and that thousands in the crowd got a different experience than those following news reports about the event.
“You know if you are at one of Trump’s events and you listen to him speak he does have specific plans for such things as growing the economy,” Stephen’s said. “If you go back and read what the national media reports or watch an event on television, you think you are at a different event.”
Trump drew some criticism Tuesday after a comment he made about Clinton appointing judges was interpreted as call for violence.
“By the way, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know,” Trump said in Wilmington. “But I’ll tell you what. That will be a horrible day.”
According to RealClearPolitics, most polls show Clinton with a lead over Trump. Trump had a peak of support late last month, the website shows, but has been losing support since. A RealClearPolitics poll average shows Clinton polling at 48 percent and Trump at 40.3.
Several top Republicans have disavowed the nominee since he clashed with Khizr Kahn, who criticized Trump while speaking at the Democratic National Convention on July. Kahn is the father of aMuslim-American Army captain killed in Iraq.
During North Carolina’s March 15 primary, Trump was the clear winner among Robeson County Republicans, earning about 51 percent of votes cast. Among Democrats, Clinton also won about 51 percent.
Sarah Willets can be reached at 910-816-1974 or on Twitter @Sarah_Willets. Bob Shiles can be reached at 91-416-5165.