RNC Carolinas Kick-Off Tour

The Republican National Convention’s “Carolinas Kick-Off Tour” bus rolls into Little Richard’s on South Stratford Road in its first stop across North Carolina and South Carolina.

The Republican National Convention’s “Carolinas Kick-Off Tour” made a stop in Winston-Salem Tuesday as part of a campaign aimed at drumming up volunteers and interest for the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte.

Over a 1,000-mile bus tour, the RNC will make six stops across North Carolina and South Carolina over a three-day period as convention organizers begin efforts to find 8,000 volunteers for the event, scheduled for Aug. 24-27, 2020.

The RNC bus made its Winston-Salem stop at Little Richard's Smokehouse Bar N Que on South Stratford Road. A group of about 25 to 35 people waited outside the restaurant, most of them wearing Donald Trump campaign apparel, for the bus to arrive. The bus arrived playing the Eagles’ “Life in the Fast Lane” from a loudspeaker, and the Republicans present seemed pleased with their party’s chances in the 2020 election.

“I’m confident people will come out to vote to keep the economy strong and the public safe,” said Aaron Berlin, chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party. “We have so many things that are really important that we can share that register with voters.”

For example, Berlin said that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s decision to veto a bill that would require North Carolina sheriffs to comply with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on immigration detainers will be a sticking point with area voters.

RNC President and CEO Marcia Lee Kelly talked took a non-partisan approach to promoting the RNC in Charlotte, calling political conventions essential to the American democratic process.

Kelly, who is heading up her fourth convention, said North Carolina is the most welcoming state she’s worked in, and discussed the importance of finding volunteers who have pride in their state.

“Volunteers are the lifeblood of a convention,” Kelly said. “Anybody that is proud of North Carolina or South Carolina is welcome (to volunteer.)”

Michael Whatley, chairman of the N.C. GOP, said having the RNC in North Carolina will put all eyes in the political arena on the state for four days. He called the state one of four “must-wins,” along with Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, for Trump and Republicans in the 2020 election.

“We are the eye of the hurricane,” Whatley said.

Whatley touted the potential economic benefits of the RNC in the Carolinas, saying it should generate more than $200 million of economic impact.

A spokeswoman with the RNC said an official study to determine the convention’s economic impact has not been done yet.

Whatley said he expects the president to visit the state multiple times in the lead-up to the 2020 convention.

About 50,000 people are expected to attend the 2020 convention.

Larry Johnson, the chairman of the Forsyth County Democratic Party, said Tuesday that he and fellow Democrats were motivated by the Trump campaign's visit to Winston-Salem.

"The 2020 election will be a referendum on President Trump," Johnson said. "The Democratic Party’s motivation is to now work harder, to register more eligible voters, make contact and educate and convince unaffiliated and disenfranchised voters of Democratic candidate positions on issues, and convince voters to vote for our candidates ...

"We’ll ensure we’re more unified, better organized, work harder, and raise our voter’s knowledge of the issues, energy and enthusiasm for our candidates," Johnson said. "and then turn out our voters during early voting and on election day. If we do all of this, the Democratic Party wins, turning North Carolina “blue”, denying the president re-election."

lsanderlin@wsjournal.com

336-727-7339

@LeeOSanderlin

Journal reporter John Hinton contributed to this story.

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