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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
George Chidi in Wilmington, North Carolina

Trump cancels North Carolina rally due to storm in first public address since New York trial

Supporters of former president Donald Trump file out of a rally after it was canceled due to threatening weather in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Supporters of former president Donald Trump file out of a rally after it was canceled due to threatening weather in Wilmington, North Carolina. Photograph: Chris Seward/AP

Donald Trump called for debates with Joe Biden before cancelling his own appearance at a planned rally in Wilmington, North Carolina as a rain storm approached the airport where it was staged on Saturday.

Trump called as he was approaching the international airport to tell rally goers that the event would be rescheduled “bigger and better”. This would have been the first time he addressed supporters in public after a week of relative silence in a New York courtroom.

“I’m devastated that this could happen but we want to keep everybody safe,” Trump said, his voice amplified by speakers to thousands of supporters, many of whom had lined up since early morning in hot and humid conditions.

“I think we’re gonna have to just do a rain check. I’m so sad,” Trump said.

Between 7,000 and 8,000 people gathered on the tarmac at the Aero Center at Wilmington airport, though organisers had only given supporters a few days of advanced notice.

Trump has spent the last week at the defense table at a trial in New York City fending off criminal charges of campaign finance fraud. Ahead of his appearance, the Trump campaign splashed a social media message posted to Truth Social in which Trump called for debates with Joe Biden, the US president and his rival in the November election.

“I am calling for Debates, ANYTIME ANYWHERE ANYPLACE,” the post said. “The debates can be run by the corrupt DNC or their subsidiary, the Commission on Presidential debates (CPD).”

Trump and the RNC pulled out of the Commission on Presidential Debates after the final debates of the 2020 campaign season.

Wilmington is home turf for Lara Trump, the former president’s daughter in law and newly installed chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. Lara Trump grew up Wilmington and graduated from high school here.

North Carolina voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020 but in increasingly narrow margins. Demographic changes and the impact of changes to abortion law may make the state much more competitive for Biden this year.

“Oh god, I’ve been wanting to come forever,” said Ron Raynor from Jackson, North Carolina, about an hour drive north of Wilmington. Raynor said he’s a process server, but also drives for ride share apps and works on other projects. “That’s a lot of work, but that’s what it takes. It takes hustle. We’ve got to hustle because of this economy. The way it is, you’ve got to work twice as hard to make the same amount of money that you were making under Donald Trump. The sleepy Joe Biden policies are not working for me. I didn’t sign up for that.”

Reuters contributed to this report

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