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Trump bets on immigration fears to keep North Carolina seat in GOP hands Tuesday

Yahoo! News logo Yahoo! News 9/10/2019 David Knowles
a man wearing a suit and tie: President Trump with Republican candidate Dan Bishop during a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque © Provided by Oath Inc. President Trump with Republican candidate Dan Bishop during a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

On the eve of a special election in a swing state crucial to his reelection prospects, President Trump traveled to Fayetteville, N.C., Monday and delivered a speech that portrayed illegal immigrants as a threat to America.

“To protect your family, you must defeat open borders. And you have a Democrat named Dan McCready and he wants open borders,” Trump told his audience. “He wants sanctuary cities and he’s not going to protect your Second Amendment.”

McCready, a former Marine and Iraq War veteran, is running for the seat for a second time in a special election Tuesday, after narrowly losing to Republican Mark Harris in 2016, in an election so tainted by misconduct that Harris’s victory was declared invalid, and he has been replaced as the GOP nominee by Dan Bishop. McCready does support a pathway to citizenship for so-called “dreamers,” the children of undocumented immigrants brought to the country by their parents. He does not support “open borders,” but opposes a bill in the state legislature that would compel North Carolina sheriffs to comply with orders to ICE agents to detain immigrants.

“One of the biggest issues in this election is, in fact, sanctuary cities. McCready supports sanctuary city policies that force prisons and jails to release criminal aliens directly into your neighborhoods,” Trump said.

Trump’s message in North Carolina was reminiscent of the case he made during the 2018 midterm elections, when Democrats trounced Republicans to retake control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Bishop joined Trump onstage Monday and echoed the president’s rhetoric, decrying “the socialist Democrat party” that he said “seeks the president’s destruction every day.”

Trump, Bishop said, is “the greatest fighter ever to occupy the White House,” battling attacks from Democrats and the media at every turn.

Bishop’s turn at the microphone was interrupted for several minutes when an audience member near the podium was overcome by the heat.

"I guess Dan's speech wasn't so good,” Trump joked, his face glistening with perspiration.

Trump also appealed to religious conservatives in the state, complimenting Franklin Graham for his charity’s efforts to aid the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian. "Our Evangelicals are here tonight," Trump said. "What we've done for religion is so very important.”

But the bulk of the president’s “America first” message drew a contrast between the two parties in terms of national identity.

“You finally have a president who understands that I’m not supposed to be the president of the world, I’m supposed to be the president of the United States of America,” Trump said.

Trump assured the crowd that the “wall [on the border with Mexico] is being built.” He charged Democrats with seeking to give “free healthcare to illegal immigrants” and wanting “to bring in unlimited numbers of migrant refugees,” Trump added.

Whether McCready or Bishop wins a district Trump won by 12 points in 2016 will be an early indication of the president’s strength in a once reliably Republican state where Democrats are becoming more competitive.

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