Why Trump Can’t Take Red Counties in North Carolina for Granted

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Even some people in Gastonia, N.C., are a little perplexed about why the president was holding a rally in a small community that’s already in his camp.

Republicans in Gaston County still have pictures from the last time a presidential candidate visited here during a general election: They are sun-stained images from 1992, when President George H.W. Bush’s Spirit of America train tour made a stop in the town of Ranlo.

When residents heard that President Trump was planning a rally in Gastonia, they reacted with a mix of small-town pride and general confusion. He won the county in 2016 with 64 percent of the vote; have things gotten so bad for Mr. Trump in the suburbs of America that he needed to spend time here two weeks before Election Day?

“What I’m seeing in my online communities is that people immediately laughed,” said Courtney Phillips, a stay-at-home mother who has been involved in grass-roots organizing for the Biden-Harris campaign. “Why is he coming here? Is he really worried about Gaston County?” Tens of thousands of people ultimately turned out for Wednesday night’s rally, indicating that this red county, at least, had an energized Trump base. “People had to park at the mall,” she said.

In this final sprint of the campaign, Mr. Trump is now holding up to three rallies a day to try to “juice” his base, in the words of advisers, as he bleeds support among the suburban voters who helped fuel his victory in 2016. His trip to this bedrock Trump county, and to Wisconsin and Ohio suburbs and exurbs on Saturday where his once-solid support is sliding, reflect his need to energize as much of his base as he can since many swing voters are now behind former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and there are few undecided voters left.

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