RALEIGH With less than one month before voters head to the polls for the 2016 elections, presidential candidates and surrogates continued to demonstrate the importance of North Carolina as a battleground state as they crisscrossed the Old North State to make make their cases and disparage opponents.After leaked video of Republican nominee Donald Trump making lewd comments about women surfaced ahead of the second presidential debate last Sunday, Trump said during that debate he was embarrassed by the video, apologized for the remarks, but ultimately dismissed it as “locker room talk.”Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, held a rally in Charlotte Monday and addressed the issue.”It takes a big man to know when he’s wrong and to admit it,” Pence told the audience. “Donald Trump last night showed he’s a big man.”Campaigning for Hillary Clinton in Greensboro Tuesday, President Barack Obama said that Trump’s comments on the 2005 videotape about groping women would disqualify him from even a job at a convenience store.Obama said the choice was clear in the Nov. 8 election even before the tape was leaked last week showing Trump speaking crudely about women.”Now you find a situation in which the guy says stuff that nobody would find tolerable if they were applying for a job at 7-Eleven,” Obama told the crowd, referring to the convenience store chain.However, Obama’s anti-Trump rhetoric on behalf of Clinton did not go uncontested as two protesters walked in front of the crowd, screaming “Bill Clinton is a rapist” while wearing shirts that bore the same phrase.Wednesday, both vice presidential candidates again campaigned in the state. Democrat vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine spoke at Davidson College, voicing opposition for North Carolina’s embattled voter ID law and continued the assault on Trump.”Donald Trump to my satisfaction didn’t demonstrate sincerity in his apology,” said Kaine. “He tried to diminish the impact by saying it’s locker room talk. … I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think that’s what men do. It’s abusive. It’s abusive words and it’s a description of abusive behavior.”Pence, in Raleigh on his second North Carolina campaign stop of the week, said this election is about bigger matters like the rule of law and the Constitution, and that Trump is the right choice to lead the country on these issues.”He embodies the spirit of this country strong, freedom-loving, independent, optimistic and willing to fight every day for what the American people believe in,” said Pence of Trump. Pence went on to attack Clinton for her mismanagement of foreign relations in her role as Secretary of State in the Obama administration, saying the world is a more dangerous place due to her and Obama’s weakness as world leaders.Trump himself held a rally in Greensboro Friday and accused Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim of trying to help Clinton win the Nov. 8 election through his connection to the New York Times.The Republican nominee also said a variety of women who have accused him of making unwanted sexual advances are making up their stories.”Some are doing it for probably a little fame, they get some free fame,” said Trump. “It’s a total setup. Now suddenly after many, many years, phony accusers come out less than a month before one of the most important elections in the history of our country.”Trump said Slim, as a major New York Times shareholder, is helping bankroll what he called the Times’ attempt to help Clinton win the presidential election. “They’re not journalists,” Trump said of the Times reporters who broke stories from the accusers. “They’re corporate lobbyists for Carlos Slim and foreign corporations.”About three weeks remain before the election, a fact that suggests the campaigns have not yet made their final appearances on the North Carolina battleground to convince undecided voters to support their candidate over the opposition. The final stretch also lends to yet more October surprises as the candidates seek to bury their opponents with negative sentiment as undoubtedly weary voters head to the polls.
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