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Watch now: President Trump speaks to supporters in Hickory, talks Second Amendment, support for police

Watch now: President Trump speaks to supporters in Hickory, talks Second Amendment, support for police

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President Donald Trump took the stage in Hickory just after 6:30 p.m. Sunday, promising the crowd of thousands at the Hickory Regional Airport that he would lower taxes, support police and protect the Second Amendment.

"And ensure more products are stamped with that beautiful phrase, Made in the USA," he said.

North Carolina has long been considered an important state in the presidential race and several polls point to a close contest.

Trump chose friendly territory for his rally Sunday. The president received 69.4 percent of the vote in the four counties that make up the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton Metropolitan Statistical Area in 2016.

"Two days from now, we are going to win this great state, just like we did last time," Trump said. "We're going to win four more years in the White House."

The visit is also a historic moment for Hickory. It’s likely the first time a sitting president has visited the city since Gerald Ford came during the 1976 campaign.

People came from at least as far as Sanford – which is approximately 150 miles east of Hickory in North Carolina -- to see the president.

Supporters cited issues ranging from his handling of the economy to immigration and his support for law enforcement.

Several said they admired Trump because they trust him in ways they do not trust other politicians.

“I just want somebody real,” Bethlehem resident Janet Cope said. “I mean, he’s very transparent. He keeps it real and that’s what we need. I don’t want a politician.”

Cope, 48, said she and the president have the same birthday and seeing him is the fulfillment of a dream for her.

She and other supporters said they felt Trump had been held back by the opposition in his term.

Sanford resident Michael Wilkinson, 55, was among those echoing the sentiment.

“Well, the president is an outsider coming on the inside and just think of what this man could have done if he would have had some support,” Wilkinson said. “He’s done all that he’s done with everybody against him, even some people in his own party.”

The rally was an all-day event for supporters. People lined up on Sunday morning to catch buses from L.P. Frans Stadium to the Hickory airport, where the president held his rally.

Earlier in the day, Secret Service agents told area law officers that the crowd could swell to 30,000 people by the time President Trump arrived Sunday evening.

Winston-Salem Journal digital journalist Ragan Robinson contributed to this report.

Kevin Griffin is the City of Hickory reporter at the Hickory Daily Record.

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