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Former President Donald Trump is back on the campaign trail stumping for Republican candidates who will be on the ballot this November. Amna Nawaz and Lisa Desjardins discuss his latest rally in Wilmington, North Carolina where Trump is supporting Senate candidate Ted Budd.
Former President Donald Trump is back on the campaign trail stumping for Republican candidates who will be on the ballot this November.
Amna Nawaz has more.
Mr. Trump is in Wilmington, North Carolina, today, holding a rally for Republican Congressman Ted Budd, who's running for the U.S. Senate.
Our Lisa Desjardins is there and joins me now.
Lisa, it's good to see you.
We see those crowds there behind you. And I know you have been out talking to some of the attendees. So, give us a sense of who's there, what brought them out. What are they telling you?
A very spirited crowd waiting under this Carolina blue sky for Mr. Trump, who is expected later, in a short while.
And I will tell you, this crowd, when you ask them why they're here, one of the first things they will tell you is because they love this country. The next thing they will tell you, of course, is that they are devoted to former President Trump and, in fact, more devoted to him than to the Republican Party that he represents and leads.
And you talk to folks here, you know they expected a very large crowd. And, indeed, this is not the stadium-sized draw that Mr. Trump had when he was running for president or was president, but it is still a few thousand people, one of the larger types of crowds we will see in this midterm election cycle.
We asked the people here why they support President Trump, what they make of the investigations under way, and what they think of how President Biden sees them.
Teresa Nissel, Trump Supporter:
He's calling us all extreme radicals and this or — we're not extreme. We just love our family. We love our country. We wants what is best for it. And it's not fair to — I don't do that to Democrats. I don't group them all in one category. I don't.
I have family and friends that are Democrats. They're just good people. We just think differently, but I don't call them names.
Teresa Martin, Trump Supporter:
What we're going through here in Wilmington, North Carolina, the high gas prices, the food prices, I just wonder sometimes how the poor people feed their children, clothe their children, send them to school. I'm not happy with it at all.
And I think Trump would make a lot of difference. He did back then. We weren't in the recession that we were in now.
Paul Fisher, Trump Supporter:
How many times have they investigated the poor guy? I mean, for all that HE accomplished while he was president, despite all the investigations and the headwinds against him, I mean, it's all — it's all ridiculous.
If the guy did anything wrong, IT would have come out by now.
Brent Christenen, Trump Supporter:
I think what he has helped people like me do is get up off the chair and get involved and volunteer. And that's what I have done for the first time ever in my life. I'm 63 years old.
For these midterm elections?
Yes, absolutely. Yes. I'm brand-new to North Carolina, and I basically called up my local elections and said, hey, I want to be a poll watcher. And they said, OK. And they're making me a judge.
That's not haphazard politically.
We know that Steve Bannon, former senior adviser and one of former President Trump's keenest allies, among others, has called for what he says is the precinct strategy, for Trump allies to become election officials across the country.
Here in North Carolina, Republicans and Democrats appoint judges on a local level. But this is something that Trump forces in particular want their are people to do. So while that man I spoke to is doing it out of what he said was a personal sense of public service, it is part of a political strategy from President — former President Trump and his allies.
Lisa, you are, of course, in a key state for the battle of control for Congress. That's why Mr. Trump is there.
But when you talk to his supporters, how motivated are they to turn out for a midterm election, when he's not even on the ballot?
Such a great question.
We have a 50/50 U.S. Senate right now. North Carolina is one of just 10 states that could determine whether Republicans or Democrats control that chamber going ahead.
Now, let's talk about the race very quickly. Running for the North Carolina open Senate seat vacated by Richard Burr, who's retiring, we have representative Ted Budd, the Republican, and Cheri Beasley is the Democratic. She's a chief former chief justice from the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Both parties like their candidates here. President Trump has endorsed Ted Budd. That's one reason he was able to win the primary, former president, of course, I should say.
But I want to point out why we're here, this part of North Carolina. Talking to those involved in this race, Amna, this is a place where Joe Biden running in 2020 underperformed. This was a place hard-hit by COVID. The tourist economy here, beaches nearby, really felt COVID.
And this is also a place where there are a lot of rural voters nearby. The Republicans say they have to get out to win in November, and they're hard to reach door to door. So, something like a rally from a former president is a way to reach thousands of them at a time.
Lisa, I heard you ask one of those attendees about some of the investigations, a lot of the headlines that we see at the national level about Mr. Trump.
What did other people say when you ask them whether they care about the headlines this week of the New York attorney general suing Mr. Trump for fraud or the ongoing Department of Justice investigation into his handling of classified materials down at his Florida estate? Does any of that matter to them?
I would say there are two schools of thought on that, Amna.
For some of these Trump voters here, they're enraged about it. They're actually motivated to get out because they believe those investigations are political, as the former president has alleged. For others who we spoke to, they said, I just want to move on. They will say, I'm not a perfect person. I don't think former President Trump is a perfect person. If they were going to charge him, they should have done so previously.
Of course, we know the legal problems. We know why that hasn't happened. But for those here, some of the folks just want to move on. I will say, something that is universal in every person we have talked to you at this rally, none of them believe that the results of the 2020 election are legitimate. And they doubt it to different degrees, but none of them except, as we know it is legitimate, the election of Joe Biden.
There is still a conspiracy here and the fraudulent idea that there were problems with that election. That is a very large part of this crowd.
Lisa, speaking of conspiracy theories too, there was a previous Trump rally in Ohio that got a lot of attention because of the presence of QAnon supporters, the supporters of that extremist conspiracy theory.
Are you seeing any signs of that in Wilmington tonight?
Yes, we have been asking about that here. And most of the voters we talked to disavow QAnon, have rejected it, say they have looked into it.
But I did speak to a woman who said she believes there is something to the QAnon conspiracy theories, and she likes that she believes President Trump is promoting them. We also saw QAnon bumper stickers in the parking lot. It is a dark conspiracy theory that is part of this crowd.
But it sort of speaks to what this event is really, Amna. It is an example of the contradictions in American politics right now, a crowd that comes here really talking about how much they love this country, but throughout this crowd are woven conspiracy ideas, and even the idea of rejecting an election that we know was legitimate.
They make that is our Lisa Desjardins in Wilmington, North Carolina, tonight, where former President Trump will be holding a rally.
Lisa, thank you. Good to see you.
Watch the Full Episode
Lisa Desjardins is a correspondent for PBS NewsHour, where she covers news from the U.S. Capitol while also traveling across the country to report on how decisions in Washington affect people where they live and work.
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