WILMINGTON, N.C. — President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel faces double-edged sword with Alex Jones, Roger Stone Trump goes after Woodward, Costa over China Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves MORE visited the battleground state of North Carolina on Wednesday, where he infused political remarks with a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Trump delivered prepared remarks at Battleship North Carolina, where he announced Wilmington as the first World War II Heritage City.
The president’s remarks included thinly-veiled political jabs, as Trump referenced protests in Portland, Ore., paid tribute to law enforcement and appeared to swipe at critics of controversial historical figures by declaring, “In America, we’re not ashamed of anything.”
“We must uphold the rule of law and defend the American dream for every child in our land,” Trump told the crowd.
The president delivered his remarks under dark storm clouds, and exited the battleship as “YMCA,” one of his signature rally songs, blared over the speakers.
Trump has made North Carolina a key priority in his reelection fight, as recent polls show the president and Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenSouth Africa health minister calls travel bans over new COVID variant 'unjustified' Biden attends tree lighting ceremony after day out in Nantucket Senior US diplomat visiting Southeast Asia to 'reaffirm' relations MORE running neck and neck in the state. Trump’s latest trip comes just two days before officials will begin sending absentee ballots to voters who have requested them.
"I want to thank you for being so nice to me,” Trump said aboard the ship, addressing North Carolinians. “You've been very nice, very, very nice, every time we've asked for something, but I've been nice to you also. I have to say that."
Before delivering remarks announcing Wilmington as the first WWII Heritage City, Trump delivered remarks to a large group of supporters gathered on the tarmac of Wilmington International Airport who awaited his arrival. He touted the stock market and promised a strong economy if he is reelected in November, while criticizing Biden for what he described as a lack of focus on law enforcement and insisted the Democratic nominee’s election would hamper the economic recovery.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany this week disputed that there was a political purpose to Trump’s visit to North Carolina.
Trump signed legislation last year directing the secretary of the Interior to each year designate at least one city as an American World War II Heritage City based on contributions made to secure victory in the war, efforts to keep a historical record of those contributions and work honoring WWII veterans. The legislation was introduced by North Carolina Republicans Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisOvernight Defense & National Security — A new plan to treat Marines 'like human beings' Republicans press Milley over perceived progressive military agenda Gun control group alleges campaign finance violations in lawsuit against NRA MORE and Rep. David RouzerDavid Cheston RouzerNorth Carolina legislature approves new US House map We can't let sand mining threaten storm-buffering, natural infrastructure READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results MORE.
During the war, Wilmington was the site of the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, which built 243 ships in five years as part of the government’s emergency shipbuilding program.
“We will never forget what you did for us,” Trump said in remarks at the battleship.
Trump was greeted by Tillis, who is facing a tough battle for reelection in the Senate, when he arrived in Wilmington on Wednesday.
Trump won North Carolina by about 3 percentage points over Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRepublicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Poll: Democracy is under attack, and more violence may be the future Popping the progressive bubble MORE in 2016, helping to secure his first term in the White House. A CNBC-Change Research survey released last week found Biden leading Trump by 1 percentage point in North Carolina, which is within the margin of error for the poll.
Trump and Vice President Pence each visited North Carolina just last Monday, making surprise business visits to the Republican National Convention in Charlotte. Pence is also scheduled to travel to Raleigh on Thursday for a mix of official and campaign business.
Biden, who delivered remarks from Wilmington, Del., on school reopening just before Trump’s speech, accused Trump of a “failure of leadership” on the coronavirus that has cost “over 2,700 lives” in North Carolina in a statement prior to the president’s visit.
“President Trump still does not understand that in order to fully and effectively restart the economy, we must defeat the virus,” Biden said. “Instead of providing North Carolina the roadmap and resources needed to protect small businesses, schools, and families, he has criticized local leaders and threatened educators for listening to public health experts.”
Trump has repeatedly criticized North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) for restrictions he has imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus
Cooper announced Monday that the state would move to phase 2.5 of reopening after three months in phase 2, allowing more businesses to reopen but also requiring children above age 5 to wear face coverings in public settings.
The state has recorded roughly 170,000 cases of COVID-19 among its residents in total. Currently, over 900 people are hospitalized due to coronavirus infections.
Brett Samuels contributed