Trump cancels rally due to weather, proving how difficult it is to balance a process and a campaign – Daily Press

By BILL BARROW (Associated Press)

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Donald Trump had to cancel his first planned rally since the start of his criminal hush-money trial due to a storm Saturday evening in North Carolina, an added complication that highlights the difficulty the former president faces in juggling his legal troubles with his rematch against President Joe Biden.

Trump called the rally site near the Wilmington airport less than an hour before he was scheduled to take the stage and apologized to a few thousand supporters who had gathered all afternoon under an initially sunny sky that later darkened with storm clouds.

From his private plane, Trump cited lightning and the approaching storm as he explained he would not be landing. He promised to reschedule a “bigger and better” event at the same location “as soon as possible.”

The planned rally in the critical battleground of North Carolina was to cap a week in which Trump spent four days in a Manhattan courtroom sitting quietly during jury selection, while Biden was able to hold multiple campaign events in Pennsylvania, another key state in the November elections.

The cancellation denied Trump another opportunity to amplify claims that his multiple pending charges are an establishment conspiracy to take him down — and, by extension, suppress the voters who first elected him eight years ago.

Now, instead of commanding attention on his own terms at one of his signature mass rallies, his next public appearance will almost certainly be Monday, back at the defendant’s table for opening arguments in the first-ever felony trial of a American president. And it will be up to his campaign to decide when next he can have Trump as the candidate instead of Trump as the defendant.

“I’m devastated that this could happen, but we want to keep everyone safe,” Trump said.

The assembled voters expressed their frustrations with the turn of events, but made it clear that they understood. Many of them had spent hours before the rally taking prime seats, patronizing food trucks and perusing a row of tents selling Trump memorabilia, including T-shirts with the former president’s mug shot taken in Atlanta after his indictment accusation that he managed a criminal. conspiracy to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory.

“I’ve been with Donald Trump and I’m still with Donald Trump, but I’m disappointed he didn’t show up,” said Cheryl Lynn Johnson, who drove about two hours from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to attend the rally . would have been her fourth Trump rally. “I’m mad at Mother Nature, but I support Trump.”

Indeed, the public was ready to validate Trump’s strategy of using his mandatory court time to his advantage by couching the proceedings in the same populist, anti-establishment arguments that first fueled his rise eight years ago.

“It’s political persecution, and if it was anyone else, he wouldn’t have to deal with it,” said Christian Armstrong, a 28-year-old firefighter who lives in Wilmington and attended his first Trump rally.

LeeAnn Coleman, a 42-year-old who is in a family restaurant business, said, “It’s ridiculous that he has to do this at all,” instead of spending time focusing on “all the problems he wants to solve.”

Those arguments could have come from Trump himself.

“They want to keep me off the campaign trail,” the candidate-turned-defendant insisted earlier this week in Harlem, where he visited a convenience store and addressed a crowd of media outside after spending a day at his own jury selection. Instead of going after violent criminals, he claimed, “They’re going after Trump.”

It is not clear when Trump’s next campaign appearance will be. His trial in New York could last more than a month, severely curtailing his freedom to see, fundraise and make phone calls to voters, and additional legal proceedings could follow later in the year. Trump aides have promised weekend meetings and events on Wednesday, the only weekday when Trump’s hush money trial is expected to take place during the recess. The former president’s campaign has also promised additional weeknight appearances in New York, such as his trip to Harlem.

But there’s no arguing about the weather. Trump came closest to assigning responsibility for the cancellation by mentioning “weather officials,” but he did not question the decision during his brief remarks.

Even with the cancellation, Trump’s choice of location underscored the importance of North Carolina as a presidential battleground. Trump won here by less than 1.5 percentage points over Biden in 2020, the smallest margin of all the states Trump won. Saturday would have been the second time in as many months that Trump visited the state. Biden has traveled to North Carolina twice this year; Vice President Kamala Harris has visited four times.

“The presidential race will run through North Carolina,” Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said in a recent interview.

North Carolina is one of seven states that both the Trump and Biden campaigns have said they will devote significant campaign resources to winning. Trump has insisted he will broaden the map, even to his native New York, which is heavily Democratic. However, most Republicans agree that Trump will have a difficult path to a majority in the Electoral College if Biden were to win the sixteen electoral votes in North Carolina. Trump tacitly recognized North Carolina’s status by tapping then-Republican State Chairman Michael Whatley to lead his effective takeover of the Republican National Committee.

Biden’s campaign has hired statewide leaders and field organizers from North Carolina for offices across the state. That’s in addition to state party staff who began an organizing program ahead of municipal races last year and are looking forward to this year’s national contests, including an open governor’s race. Cooper is legally barred from seeking a third term.

“We had to build energy on the ground early,” said Democratic state Chairman Anderson Clayton, noting that the last Democratic presidential candidate to win North Carolina — Barack Obama in 2008 — had staged the state in a hotly contested primary campaign that challenged the state’s position of power. state had introduced. last year.

Matt Mercer, spokesman for the Republican Party of North Carolina, countered that Republicans have had experienced staffers on the ground since 2020 and now have a ticket with Trump and Mark Robinson, the Republican nominee for governor, which excites the Republican base. Trump has endorsed Robinson, the state’s first black lieutenant governor, calling him “Martin Luther King on steroids.”

Robinson was scheduled to join Trump on stage in Wilmington.

Ahead of the planned meeting, Democrats criticized the coalition for its opposition to abortion rights, calling it too extreme for North Carolina.

Cooper predicted that Biden’s record — low unemployment, rising wages, stabilized inflation, investments in infrastructure and green energy — and his support for abortion rights will resonate in a geographically and demographically diverse state.

“Joe Biden has done more in his first two years than most presidents can hope to do in two terms,” Cooper argued.

Mercer said Republicans will respond with a family-first message on the economy and public safety.

“Whether it’s skyrocketing inflation, the open southern border or the migrant crime crisis,” he said, voters are “fed up” with Biden.

Trump missed an opportunity to make that case himself on Saturday. But for voters like Matt Mazak, a 32-year-old who described himself as an independent, the verdict is already in.

“I want someone who doesn’t go with the flow of D.C.,” Mazak said. “I’m not even saying Trump is the right answer. But he is the best we have.”