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Trump says Democrats are 'not big believers in religion' during North Carolina rally

CNN logo CNN 9/10/2019 By Betsy Klein, CNN
Donald Trump et al. standing in front of a crowd: CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 01: President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at U.S. Bank Arena on August 1, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The president was critical of his Democratic rivals, condemning what he called "wasted money" that has contributed to blight in inner cities run by Democrats, according to published reports.  (Photo by Andrew Spear/Getty Images) © Andrew Spear/Getty Images CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 01: President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at U.S. Bank Arena on August 1, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The president was critical of his Democratic rivals, condemning what he called "wasted money" that has contributed to blight in inner cities run by Democrats, according to published reports. (Photo by Andrew Spear/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump cast Tuesday's special election in North Carolina and the 2020 presidential election as a fight for the status quo, describing Democrats as the "America-hating left."

Democrats, he warned the crowd of supporters at a rally Monday, "want to dismantle, demolish and destroy everything that you've gained."

Trump claimed the Democrats are not religious and are trying to take away religion.

"Whether it has to do with religion, our evangelicals ...what we've done for them and for religion is so important. The other side, not big believers in religion, I can tell you," he said during his rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he was campaigning for the Republican candidate in a special election for the 9th Congressional District.

Moments before he introduced the candidate for that seat, Dan Bishop, Trump told the crowd that "to stop the far left, you must vote in tomorrow's special election" and "send a clear message to the America-hating left."

Trump's visit comes one day before the special election in North Carolina's 9th District, which stretches east from the suburban south Charlotte area past Fayetteville. The district's seat in the House of Representatives is currently vacant due to fraud in the 2018 midterm election. The President is aiming to boost Bishop, whom he endorsed in May after candidate Mark Harris dropped out for health reasons, in what is expected to be a tight race.

Vice President Mike Pence, who also attended Monday evening's rally, spent some time Monday afternoon encouraging volunteers and making calls at a makeshift Bishop call center in the Charlotte area, calling Bishop a "rock solid conservative."

The district, which Trump won handily in 2016, has been held by Republicans since 1963, but Tuesday's election will be a test of whether the momentum that carried Democrats to control the House is able to propel Bishop's opponent, Democrat Dan McCready, an entrepreneur and former US Marine, to victory.

McCready canvassed downtown Fayetteville with veterans and military families ahead of Trump's rally Monday.

It will also be a test of whether Trump's 2020 message -- casting Democrats and McCready as politicians who "(want) Open Borders, Sanctuary Cities, and Socialism" -- resonates with the suburban voters in North Carolina who will be crucial to his reelection chances more broadly.

Trump previously held a rally in Fayetteville during his December 2016 victory tour, and Fayetteville's rally will mark Trump's second trip to North Carolina since formally launching his 2020 campaign in June. He held a rally in Greenville, North Carolina, in July, where a crowd chanted "Send her back!" in response to Trump's intensified rhetoric attacking four progressive Democratic congresswomen.

Speaking to reporters on the White House South Lawn before departing for Fayetteville, Trump appeared to manage expectations, noting that his name is not on the ballot ahead of the special election.

"I'm not running, but I have a lot of respect for Dan Bishop," he said, adding that polling numbers have gotten "closer" since he got involved a few weeks ago.

Trump said he didn't see the race as a bellwether when asked.

"No, I don't see it as a bellwether. They always ask that question," he said before touting Republican victories in the Senate in 2018 and, as a result, nearly 180 judicial confirmations.

"We're very happy with the way we've done. The '18 election, the big thing was I wasn't running. People were running. But I will go and help Dan Bishop," he said.

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