Raleigh, N.C. — Only 30 miles separated Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump Thursday night, but the two presidential candidates remain far apart on policy as they continue pressing for North Carolina votes in the final days before the election.
Both Clinton and Trump crisscrossed the state Thursday, urging supporters to vote either by Saturday in the early voting period or on Election Day next Tuesday. Both of them held evening rallies in the Triangle, marking their closest relative proximity since their final debate two weeks ago.
With seven Medal of Honor winners behind him, Trump focused much of his address in Selma on the military and foreign policy.
"We want strength in this country," he told thousands of people at The Farm. "Our focus must be on keeping America safe and destroying ISIS."
Trump vowed to build up U.S. military forces, saying the various armed services are at their smallest levels since World War II and have to rely on outdated aircraft and other equipment.
He blamed Clinton and President Barack Obama for allowing Islamic State forces to take root in the Middle East and export terrorism to the U.S., and he said he would shut down resettlement programs that allow Syrian refugees to live in the U.S.
"Under the leadership of Hillary Clinton," he said before breaking from his script critical of her time as secretary of state, "Leadership? What leadership? I don't want to use the word in the same sentence."
Trump then segued into the email controversy that continues to plague the Clinton campaign, alleging that foreign intelligence agencies hacked the private server she used while secretary of state, that she perjured herself during her testimony to Congress and that the U.S. Justice Department has been shielding her from prosecution.
"Can we trust her with our security?" he asked. "She was more interested in keeping her emails a secret than in keeping our classified intelligence a secret. She was more interested in protecting herself than in protecting the people of the United States."
Trump also called out Obama, saying he's spending too much time on the campaign trail for Clinton and not enough serving as president.
"He ought to be working on our borders. He ought to be working on crime. Instead, he's campaigning with somebody that's under FBI investigation," Trump said. "We are led by stupid people, and one of them is campaigning just too much."
Sanders rallies with Clinton
Meanwhile, up U.S. Highway 70 at Raleigh's Walnut Creek amphitheater, Clinton was joined by Democratic primary rival U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders as they called for a re-energized economy that helps working-class families and affordable college tuition.
The pair each spoke about health care and reform to the criminal justice system as well, but they placed particular emphasis on the country as it would exist under a Trump administration.
"I disagree with Donald Trump on virtually all of his policy positions, but what upsets me the most is we, for so many years, have worked to overcome discrimination, and he’s running his campaign, the cornerstone of which is bigotry," Sanders said. "Our uniqueness is our diversity. We should be proud of it, and we are not going to allow Trump or anyone else to divide us up."
Clinton said Trump’s proposed policies, which include building a wall along the Mexican border and a ban on Muslim immigrants from certain countries, would violate the country’s founding principal of religious freedom and normalize discrimination.
While rarely mentioning Trump by name, Clinton said that the campaign should be focused on the issues instead of divisive rhetoric. She said that, while she and Sanders were formerly political rivals, she took pride in the fact that their discourse led to actual discussion.
"When we faced each other in the primary, here’s what I was so proud about: We ran a campaign on issues that mattered to the American people," Clinton said. "This election’s been a lot more fun now that we’re on the same side."
While outlining the issues that most concerned him, Sanders said he fears that the county is sliding into an oligarchic form of society where billionaires control economic and political aspects of American life through large campaign contributions.
Clinton and Sanders both talked about the importance of local elections in addition to the presidential race.
"It’s time you had a governor who puts families first, not radical ideology," Clinton said. "You need a governor who actually cares about the children of North Carolina."
Sanders, meanwhile, bashed "cowardly" Republican governors who he said have attempted to suppress voters.
"I say to those governors, if you don’t have the guts to participate in a fair and open election, get out of politics and get another job," he said.
Earlier in the day, Clinton held an afternoon get-out-the-vote rally at Pitt Community College in Winterville, while Trump addressed a rally at Cabarrus Arena in Concord.
Friday is also a big day in North Carolina on the presidential stage, with President Barack Obama holding rallies for Clinton in Charlotte and Fayetteville and Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence speaking in Greenville.