Raleigh, N.C. — Donald Trump's daughter-in-law returned to her home state Tuesday to try to shore up support among women and others as the Republican presidential nominee fights to win North Carolina in November.
Lara Trump, a Wrightsville Beach native and a North Carolina State University graduate, met with a small crowd of supporters at Briggs Hardware in downtown Raleigh, where owner Evelyn Scruggs talked about the difficulties her family business has faced because of the recession. Lara Trump said Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton would simply continue the Obama administration's policies, while Donald Trump would do more to help small businesses and bring jobs back from overseas.
"When you have a good economy, when you bring jobs back that are otherwise overseas, they’re going to go to hard-working Americans," Lara Trump said, adding that curbing illegal immigration also would open up jobs.
Numerous media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and CNN, have documented a string of small businesses hurt when Donald Trump reneged on contracts or refused to pay suppliers to his casinos and other businesses.
Lara Trump said she isn't familiar with those complaints.
"I can only tell you from the projects that I’ve seen my husband work on," she said. "everybody has been very happy working with the Trump family, for the Trump family. I can tell you that all of his employees are very happy to work for him, very proud to work for him."
Meanwhile, Democrats held their own news conference Tuesday in which former State Treasurer Richard Moore and several small-business owners promoted Clinton's economic plan and what it would mean to small businesses in the Triangle. The Clinton campaign estimates nearly 844,000 small businesses in North Carolina would benefit from a plan to provide tax relief and simplify paperwork.
Lara Trump said she took a leave of absence Monday from her job as a producer at the tabloid television show "Inside Edition" to work full time on the presidential campaign, and she said she hopes to introduce more voters to "the true Donald Trump."
"I think that I can maybe speak to the fact that he’s doing this for the right reasons. He doesn’t need to have this job, you know. He could be retired like all of his counterparts and playing golf down in Florida," she said. "But instead, he really did see a problem with our country and feels like he could fix it. So, I just want to be a conveyor of that message and tell people about the man that I know."
Donald Trump is lagging far behind Clinton among women voters, with a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll putting him 19 points behind Clinton in North Carolina.
Most polls show women view him unfavorably – the NBC poll had 66 percent of women with an unfavorable opinion of him, compared with only 26 percent with a favorable opinion. Derogatory comments he's made about women's looks, their weight, even their bodily functions may have exacerbated that gap. But his daughter-in-law says he means well.
"Look, as he’s said himself, sometimes it doesn’t come out exactly right whenever he says it, but the underlying meaning and the underlying root of why he’s doing this is to make our country better for everyone," Lara Trump said. "Sometimes the way he says things, it’s maybe a little different than you would hear otherwise, but he always has the best meaning behind it."
Last week in Charlotte, Donald Trump said he regrets some of his comments, and a recent shake-up of his campaign staff seems to have toned down some of his rhetoric in an apparent attempt to repair some of the damage.
The Trump family is comfortable with the changes, Lara Trump said.
"You know, it's an evolving thing," she said. "We're all new into politics, and we're all learning a lot, and I think we all feel good about the direction things are headed."