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Trump Stumps For Thousands In Raleigh

Donald Trump held a captive audience Friday night in Raleigh.
Jeff Tiberii

The leading Republican presidential candidate says he will improve national security, put an end to Hillary Clinton and make America great again. Last night Donald Trump made his first visit to North Carolina since announcing his candidacy in June.

For six months the billionaire mogul has delivered a relentless stream of putdowns, personality and promises that have propelled him comfortably atop the Republican presidential race. For 52 minutes Friday night he was center-stage in Dorton Arena on the State Fairgrounds.

"People always say why do you always mention polls? Because I’m always number one in the polls," Trump told the crowd.

His visit came the same day as the release of a national CNN poll showing Trump with 36-percent support from registered Republicans and Republican leaning independents. Despite some pundits doubting the long-term viability of his campaign, Trump’s lead continues to grow – now 20 points.

"We have become so politically correct that we don’t know what the hell we’re doing," he told the crowd.

Trump talked about interrogation "Can we go a couple of steps beyond waterboarding?", education "Common Core is a disaster", Holiday greetings "We are going to bring Merry Christmas back", and at least dozen other issues. He spoke for about half an hour before taking questions from the crowd of several thousand.

"I was wondering what you would say to President Obama?" one supporter asked.

Trump cut her off and uttered, "You’re Fired…"

That sent the already energized crowd into a frenzy. Trump worked without a script or teleprompter as usual, while he exuded the normal confidence, swagger and stage presence in talking about being stronger, better and winning. Trump was interrupted seven different times by protestors. It was difficult to hear exactly what the demonstrators were saying. At least one group was chanting black lives matter. Trump seemed used to it by now.

The crowd was overwhelmingly white, but there was certainly some diversity. Supporters with NASCAR hats, stood next to others wearing argyle sweaters. Voters who recalled supporting Richard Nixon, stood just feet away from children who will not be old enough to vote for Trump in 2016.

"We are 100% Trump supporters right now – 100 percent," said Mike Hanna, a retired Navy veteran from Youngsville, who attended the Rally with his wife Brenda.

"I like that he’s taking the time to attack the Democrats; because in the past two elections, no one has gone after them. Everybody has kind of laid back. We need someone who is out there fighting for us, fighting for the people who work every single day," Hanna said.

"I really respect Mr. Trump and how he really stand up for what he believes in and he doesn’t back down to anyone," said 17-year-old Sarah Boyette, from Star, will vote next November for the first time.

Boyette was sporting a black Trump t-shirt, campaign button, and holding an oversized Trump head, on a stick. Mary Carter from Hillsborough volunteered at the event. Her attire included a button reading: Hot Chicks vote Republican. She likes Trump, and would like to learn more.

"On his website he does not address healthcare. And so I would like to learn a little bit more about his stance on healthcare. Because if it’s going to be a one-payer system. I would like to hear a little more about that. What does that really mean?" Carter asked.

Trump’s Friday night Stump was light on policy. But to this point, that hasn’t mattered much.

"Well Trump’s interesting – he’s entertaining. You know he’s sort of, suspended all the political laws of gravity," offered Carter Wrenn, a long-time political strategist. He worked for Senator Jesse Helms and has been around politics for 40 years.

"There’s no advertising, there’s no promotion, there’s no big political groundswell to turn people out.  For a political candidate to say some on out to Dorton Arena tonight and people to come in the thousands – I don’t think I’ve ever seen that."

Yet there he stood with throng of passionate followers. Talking about everything he would fix, the wall he would build and the race he plans on winning.

"If I win I’m telling you we are going to be so proud of our country – again…"

This is a candidate unlike any other American Politics has seen before. Donald Trump’s lead is growing and it’s likely he’ll be back in North Carolina soon.

Jeff Tiberii is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Jeff joined WUNC in 2011. During his 20 years in public radio, he was Morning Edition Host at WFDD and WUNC’s Greensboro Bureau Chief and later, the Capitol Bureau Chief. Jeff has covered state and federal politics, produced the radio documentary “Right Turn,” launched a podcast, and was named North Carolina Radio Reporter of the Year four times.
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