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Clinton And Obama Rally In Charlotte, Trump Stops In Raleigh

Composite photo of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
U.S. Embassy and Gage Skidmore

Updated July 6 at 7:06 a.m.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump fired up supporters at two separate rallies in North Carolina Tuesday, as both presumptive presidential candidates sought to gain a lead in the battleground state.

In the afternoon, thousands gathered inside the Charlotte Convention Center to hear Clinton, who campaigned with a key supporter: President Barack Obama. It was the first joint rally between the presumptive Democratic nominee and the president.

Obama said there's never been any man or woman more qualified to be president than Clinton.

He said nobody understands the job of president until you've sat behind the president's desk. He says "everybody can tweet but nobody actually knows" what it takes, poking fun at Trump for his prolific tweeting. He said his daughter Sasha tweets, but that doesn't mean she knows what it's like to be president.

Clinton and Obama sought to show strong ties, with the president praising the former Secretary of State for her role in the search for Osama Bin Laden. Neither mentioned Clinton's private email server that contained sensitive classified information. Hours before her appearance Tuesday, the FBI recommended no charges in the email server case.

Nicole Reese, a recent graduate from the University of South Carolina who lives in Charlotte, attended the rally in Charlotte.

"First of all, I was in the same room with Obama, so I'm flipping out,” said Reese. “I'm very excited. I support him, so if he's going to endorse her and believe in what she's going to do for us, then I can, too."

It was Clinton's second rally in North Carolina in two weeks.

Around 2,300 Trump supporters gathered for a competing rally at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh Tuesday evening. The candidate zeroed in on Clinton and her questionable use of a private email server as secretary of state. He also went after the FBI and the justice department for their decision Tuesday not to press charges  against Clinton.

"Today is the best evidence ever that we've seen that our system is absolutely, totally rigged—it's rigged," he told the crowd.

Reporter Jess Clark talks with Morning Edition host Eric Hodge about the Donald Trump campaign event in Raleigh.

Trump suggested Clinton had bribed Attorney General Loretta Lynch not to press charges, citing an impromptu meeting between Lynch and Bill Clinton, and a New York Times report that sources close to Clinton said she was considering keeping Lynch on if she wins.

"I mean the attorney general is sitting there saying 'You know if I get Hillary off the hook, I'm going to have four more years or eight more years. But if she loses, I'm out of a job—It's a bribe!" he said.

Lynch had said she would follow whatever guidance the FBI gave her. FBI Director James Comey said Tuesday he would not recommend prosecution, but called Clinton's use of the private server "extremely careless."

Trump's assertions that Clinton is "crooked" struck a chord with many supporters, many of whom were wearing buttons depicting the presumptive Democratic nominee behind prison bars.

Trump's comments on foreign trade have also drawn supporters in the state. Phil Lakernick drove in from Henderson and stood in line in the rain to hear Trump speak. He says he thinks Trump's record as a businessman shows he can bring manufacturing jobs back from overseas. 

"We’re losing our jobs," he said. "Henderson has no jobs because all the factories are closed."

Stricter immigration control was another top issue among the crowd that gathered. One of the biggest rounds of applause Trump got was in response to his mention of the wall he says he wants to build on the Mexican border.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest was the highest ranking state GOP elected official present. He  made brief remarks in support of Trump before quickly pivoting to praise North Carolina's tax cuts.

Governor Pat McCrory's staff said he was out of state for an event with his wife and could not attend the event.

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker appeared with the candidate. Corker is thought to be on the shortlist for VP picks. 

Trump last visited the state last month for a rally in Greensboro.

Both Democrats and Republicans once again consider North Carolina a major battleground state. Since the 1950s, no Republican has won the presidency without winning the Tar Heel State. And Clinton is buying more TV commercial time in North Carolina than in almost anywhere else. Her campaign will spend $850,000 over the next two weeks in the Charlotte area alone.

North Carolina has 15 electoral votes in the 2016 election. The state voted for Obama for president in 2008 and for Republican nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.
Jess is WUNC's Fletcher Fellow for Education Policy Reporting. Her reporting focuses on how decisions made at the North Carolina General Assembly affect the state's students, families, teachers and communities.
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