WILMINGTON — As “House of the Rising Sun” blasted over a speaker system, Air Force One taxied down the runway at Wilmington International Airport while being trailed by two black SUVs. The aircraft was making its way to a crowd of hundreds that had gathered to catch a glimpse of President Donald Trump. The engines of the Boeing 747 droned out the music as the plane came to a halt in front of the exhilarated group.
Note: Stay tuned tomorrow for an additional photo essay on Trump’s visit to Wilmington.
Trump disembarked the aircraft and was met on the tarmac by Senator Thom Tillis, Trump’s Wrightsville Beach-native daughter-in-law Lara Trump, and others. The crowd chanted “four more years,” and after a few minutes of letting “God Bless the USA” ring out, Trump was handed a wireless microphone.
“I’m going to a battleship,” the president said. “Did you ever hear of a battleship? The North Carolina.”
Donald Trump was in Wilmington on September 2 to declare Wilmington as the nation’s first World War II heritage city. After his remarks at the airport, a Cadillac limo — part of a motorcade of around 30 vehicles — took the president to the U.S.S. North Carolina, where he made the official declaration.
Although the Wilmington event was sponsored by the federal government rather than by the Trump campaign, the president still took the opportunity to deliver an abbreviated version of a rally-type speech by the runway.
The event’s organizers had made it clear to the crowd beforehand that the president wouldn’t be shaking hands, but supporters still pressed against the bike rack barricades that separated them from Trump, trying to get as close as possible as the president walked by and waved to people in the crowd.
The airport gathering attracted Trump supporters of all ages, as well as notable figures in the local Republican scene.
“This is Trump country!” yelled a man in the crowd as the president passed him.
Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany walked with the president and received nearly as many fawning remarks from the crowd as Trump did.
“This is the most important election in the history of our country. I really believe that,” Trump said after reclaiming the microphone. “Because we’re running against people that have got some big issues — they’ve got some big, big problems. They’re stone-cold crazy and we have to keep our country.”
“This is a great day,” New Hanover County GOP Chairman Will Knecht said. “This is the first time Air Force One has ever touched down at Wilmington International Airport.”
Mark Robinson, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, was in the audience at ILM. He said that Democratic Governor Roy Cooper is beholden to special interests and has a desire to hold onto power, and said that in his mind, the most important issues facing Wilmington concern its port and waterways.
Trump expressed how important North Carolina is to his reelection hopes, and said that a recent poll has him at a two-point lead in the state — “but I think that it’s probably 10,” the president said.
After wrapping up the speech, Trump fist-pumped the air a few times and then the motorcade took off for the Battleship.
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