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Trump Expected to Focus on Harris      07/24 06:17

   Donald Trump is holding his first public campaign rally since President Joe 
Biden dropped out of a 2024 matchup that both major parties had spent months 
preparing for, leaving the former president to direct his ire toward his likely 
new opponent, Vice President Kamala Harris.

   CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Donald Trump is holding his first public campaign 
rally since President Joe Biden dropped out of a 2024 matchup that both major 
parties had spent months preparing for, leaving the former president to direct 
his ire toward his likely new opponent, Vice President Kamala Harris.

   Trump is expected to turn his full focus on Harris as he stops Wednesday in 
North Carolina, a swing state that Trump has carried in the past, but Democrats 
have seen as pivotal. The former president's trip to the state shows he's still 
concerned about keeping it in his column this November, even as his team 
reaches for wins in traditionally Democratic-leaning states like Minnesota, 
where Trump is set to visit Saturday.

   With Biden's abrupt departure from the presidential race and Harris edging 
closer and closer to officially being the Democrats' general election pick, 
Trump has ramped up his criticism of the vice president, whom he's 
characterized as "the same as Biden but much more radical."

   He has blamed her for what he portrays as the Biden administration's 
failures, particularly on security along the U.S.-Mexico border.

   Trump has also hedged on plans for an expected debate with Harris, first 
saying that he wanted Fox News, not ABC, to host the matchup he had originally 
scheduled for September with Biden. On Tuesday, Trump appeared to tweak that 
message again, saying on a call with reporters that he'd like to debate Harris 
"more than once" but not committing to appearing at the debate currently on the 
books and saying he'd only agreed to debate Biden twice, not Harris.

   Quietly, Republicans have spoken about how subbing Harris in for Biden 
nullifies a portion of their party's argument in favor of Trump's vitality and 
vigor.

   At 81, Biden had been the oldest nominee heading into a general election. 
Now, the 78-year-old Trump occupies that slot. Harris, 59, has launched a 
campaign that at least in some corners appears to be stoking interest among the 
younger voters who could be key in deciding an anticipated close general 
election.

   North Carolina is a state Trump carried in both his previous campaigns but 
by less than 1.5 percentage points over Biden in 2020, the closest margin of 
any state Trump won. Trump stumped heavily in North Carolina even as the 
COVID-19 pandemic wore on, while Biden largely kept off the physical campaign 
trail and did not personally visit the state in the last 16 days of the 
election.

   Mecklenburg County, home to Charlotte -- the state's biggest city -- was 
also the scene of Trump's narrowest margin of victory in North Carolina's GOP 
primary, edging out Nikki Haley by fewer than 8 percentage points.

   This year, Trump had planned to hold his first rally since the start of his 
hush money trial in Fayetteville, but that event was called off due to 
inclement weather. Trump called in from his private plane instead.

   Democrats also have been working to win North Carolina, where the party's 
most recent presidential win was Barack Obama's 2008 victory, despite recent 
GOP dominance.

   Biden held a campaign event in Raleigh the day after his disastrous June 
debate with Trump. While he was much more forceful in that appearance than he 
was on the debate stage, it did not help much to quell the growing concern from 
members of his party about his ability to win the White House again.

   With Harris now poised to take his spot, she may again be turning to North 
Carolina for some political help: the state's Gov. Roy Cooper is among the 
Democrats that Harris' campaign is vetting for a possible pick as her vice 
presidential running mate.

   Cooper is term limited and cannot seek reelection. The highly competitive 
race to replace him pits Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein against 
Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a staunch Trump supporter who is North 
Carolina's first Black major party nominee for governor.

   Trump's Charlotte event is his second campaign rally since a July 13 
assassination attempt at a Pennsylvania rally. Days later, Trump accepted the 
GOP presidential nomination and gave a speech at the Republican National 
Convention, where his ear -- injured in the shooting -- was bandaged.

   Wednesday's rally also is the first since the resignation of Secret Service 
director Kimberly Cheatle, who said she took "full responsibility for the 
security lapse" that led to a gunman being able to get so close to Trump at the 
outdoor event in Pennsylvania.

   The Charlotte rally, like the one over the weekend in Grand Rapids, 
Michigan, will be held in an indoor arena.

 
 
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