President Donald Trump will come to Mills River on Aug. 24, visiting the Flavor 1st Growers and Packers, at least his fourth visit to the Asheville region.
Here are some key facts to know about the president’s visit:
Why Trump is coming
Trump will visit a Farmers to Families Food Box program funded through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, according to a White House statement. He’ll tour Flavor 1st, which partners with Baptists on Mission to build the Farmers to Families Food Boxes. The tour will show how the boxes are packaged and placed into refrigerated trucks and then delivered to families in need. Following the tour, he will deliver remarks outside.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture sponsors the program, and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue will accompany the president, as will the president’s daughter, Ivanka. The Farmers to Families Food Box Program is intended to aid American farmers, ranchers, and distributors and support food banks and food insecure families.
It’s not a fully public event:
The White House has not promoted any sort of ticketed event or access to watch POTUS disembark from Air Force One or Marine One when he lands at AVL, but the airport has areas on the east side of the property where onlookers have gathered for past events.
The tour of Flavor 1st is not open to the public.
Trump’s route through NC:
Trump is flying into Charlotte and will take a presidential helicopter, Marine One, to Asheville Regional Airport, arriving at 2:20 p.m. A motorcade will proceed to Flavor 1st from there.
On previous presidential visits, including one by Barack Obama, people gathered in the Southridge Shopping Center parking lot, near the Lowe’s store, as it affords a view of the airport.
Is this a campaign event?
So far, only the White House has announced plans for Trump’s visit, which means only official business of the president’s office is planned to take place.
Campaign events are organized separately, as the law prohibits most government officials from politicking during their official work. While the law does not apply to the president or vice president, there are federal election laws and measures prohibiting using taxpayer dollars for electioneering.
What does the Mills River event mean for Trump politically?
While this visit technically is not a campaign visit, whenever the president travels and makes public appearances, it generates tremendous media and public interest. So the ramifications can be political.
North Carolina is a “swing state.” That means it sometimes goes for the Democratic nominee, as in 2008 when the Tar Heel state went for Barack Obama, and sometimes it goes for the Republican candidate, as it did in 2012 and 2016, with Mitt Romney and Donald Trump, respectively.
North Carolina, and its 15 Electoral College votes, are in play this year, too.
Modern presidential candidates essentially have unlimited money to spend, says Western Carolina University political scientist Chris Cooper.
“Their most valuable commodity they have is time, and (Trump) is going to choose to spend it in swing states where he thinks it’s going to make a difference,” Cooper said.
Mills River is also a good choice for Trump as it’s rural, and Trump does well with rural voters, and it keeps him out of downtown Asheville, which is much more liberal and likely to host more protesters.
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“With Mills River, it’s close to the airport, so it’s got some obvious logistics advantages,” Cooper said. “And this is not downtown Asheville. It’s not Lexington Avenue. He doesn’t have to pass three hookah shops to get there.”
Mills River, with a population of about 7,500, is an incorporated locality that’s been growing in recent years, but it remains a largely rural community.
“It’ll play as well as any stop could in Western North Carolina,” Cooper said. “The only way (Trump) could get any redder (territory) is is he goes farther west.”