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Supporters In N.C. Show Unwavering Loyalty To Trump Amid Sex Assault Accusations


Donald Trump campaigns in New Hampshire and Maine today. Yesterday, he had a rally in the battleground state of North Carolina. NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson was there.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: On a day when two more women came forward to accuse Donald Trump of touching them inappropriately, Trump was defiant. He called the women liars and suggested some of his accusers weren't attractive enough to warrant his advances. And he described himself as the target of a giant conspiracy.


DONALD TRUMP: I am a victim of one of the great political smear campaigns in the history of our country. They are coming after me to try and destroy what is considered, by even them, the greatest movement in the history of our country. There's never been anything...

LIASSON: The crowd inside the Charlotte Convention Center was small by Trump standards, just a few thousand, but they were pumped...


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) Lock her up. Lock her up. Lock her up.

LIASSON: ...Shouting lock her up when Trump mentioned Clinton's name. Although Trump promised that as president he would bring back jobs, destroy ISIS and repeal Obamacare, he also raised the prospect of losing.


TRUMP: If we don't win on November 8, it will be the greatest waste of time, energy - energy - you ever hear that word before, energy? You ever hear the word low energy? He didn't sign the, you know...

UNIDENTITIED MAN: Who's proud to be a deplorable here, guys? Come get your proud to be a Trump deplorable shirts right here, guys.

LIASSON: Outside the convention center, there was lots of Trump merchandise for sale. This man had bought a hat with Hillary Clinton's infamous description of Trump supporters.

JULIAN TIMMONS: Yeah, we're deplorable. My name is Julian Timmons. This is my wife, Vivien.

VIVIEN TIMMONS: I'm Vivien Timmons. We're from Gastonia.

LIASSON: There was no shortage of villains in the Trump tale of conspiracy and betrayal. The Timmons blamed the Republican leadership.

V. TIMMONS: Well, I think that they should've stood behind him if he - if the people wanted him to be their nominee, then the Republican Party should've stuck behind him because they made him sign that pledge. And they all signed that pledge and then they backed out.

LIASSON: Paul Ryan came in for particular scorn. Trump's been attacking the House speaker who withdrew his support, if not his endorsement, this week. The Ryan-Trump feud reignited the battle for control of the Republican Party. Laurie Brown knows which side she's on.

LAURIE BROWN: I'm so totally disgusted with Paul Ryan. You know, my mother told me if you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all. But we are supposed to be on the same team. The voters spoke - respect us.

LIASSON: Brown is certain to show up on Election Day and vote for Trump. But she no longer feels any loyalty to the Republican ticket.

BROWN: What good is the down ballot? They did not stop anything except the Supreme Court nominee. They don't want to stop anything. They're afraid. They're cowards.

LIASSON: Vallee Bubak blamed the media for conspiring to defeat Trump. She said the media spends too much time on Trump's sex scandals and not enough on the Clinton campaign's hacked emails.

VALLEE BUBAK: You ask any woman over 50 years old and they'll tell you, this is the way men often are. And it's - I don't agree with it. I don't like it. I was very angry with him. I was tempted to not vote for him because of it. Then I step back, calm down and I look at the big picture. And I was like, OK, do I want, you know, what's the worst that can happen? I get groped by Trump or I get killed by Clinton.

LIASSON: In the past, Trump has said the only way he can lose is if the election is stolen from him. Last night, he didn't talk about outright ballot fraud. Instead, he laid out a theory that would explain a possible defeat.


TRUMP: The whole system is rigged. And that's why when the media does what they're doing now - that's rigging the system, folks. It's rigging the system. The election is rigged. It's rigged like you've never seen before. They're rigging the system. These are very dishonest people.


TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you very much.

LIASSON: As Trump's path to 270 electoral votes narrows, the song he often uses to close his rallies has taken on a new meaning.


THE ROLLING STONES: (Singing) You can't always get what you want. You can't always get what you want.

LIASSON: Mara Liasson, NPR News, Charlotte, N.C.

SIMON: And NPR will be live fact-checking Wednesday night's presidential debate on npr.org beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern. Live coverage will air on many NPR stations. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.