Biden raises cash in Charlotte, while O’Rourke holds town hall. Here’s what they said.

Two presidential candidates stopped to talk with voters in Charlotte Wednesday night at very different locations — one at a brewery and one at a private fundraiser.

Democratic front-runner Joe Biden, the former vice president, made his first stop in Charlotte Wednesday since launching his campaign, and Beto O’Rourke visited for the second time.

Biden spoke at a fundraiser at the home of Erskine and Crandall Bowles. Erskine Bowles is the former UNC system president and served as President Bill Clinton’s White House chief of staff. Crandall Bowles was CEO at S.C.-based Springs Industries.

Costs for attending the Charlotte fundraiser ranged from $1,000 to $2,800, the Observer reported in early August.

O’Rourke met crowds at a town hall at Armored Cow Brewing in the University area.

O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, had kicked off a North Carolina tour in April with an appearance in Charlotte at Central Piedmont Community College.

Biden has spent much of his time in the Carolinas focused on South Carolina. The state’s Democratic primary is Feb. 29, 2020. North Carolina will follow with a primary vote March 3.

Biden is leading in national polls, with the support of 32% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning Independent voters surveyed in two different polls released Wednesday.

O’Rourke trails with 1% support in the Quinnipiac University Poll, and 2% support in the USA Today Suffolk University Poll.

Biden spoke at town halls in South Carolina, in Spartanburg and Gaffney, before crossing the border Wednesday.

Biden plans to be back in South Carolina Thursday for town halls in Rock Hill and Greenville, according to his campaign website.

Biden vs. Trump

Biden spoke to roughly 140 people in the Bowles’ backyard Wednesday.

He leaned on his relationship with former President Barack Obama, emphasizing his role as vice president to the first African American president.

“I never thought that I would see a day when things would change so drastically,” he said.

Biden focused on President Donald Trump, not the looming primary — painting himself as the best alternative to Trump.

“We have a president who is doing, I think, great damage to the fabric of this country,” Biden said.

He said the race wasn’t about him, it’s a fight for the country’s soul.

“The only way it stops is if we invite the country and say, ‘Enough, enough,’” Biden said. “So in my view, this is bigger than the Democratic Party having a win of Joe Biden getting elected president. It is bigger. It’s more important.”

Trump won North Carolina with roughly 50% of the vote in 2016 – beating Hillary Clinton by roughly four percentage points.

But Biden said in June that if he wins the primary, he’s confident he’ll win North Carolina against Trump.

O’Rourke talks immigration, gun control

In a wide-ranging town hall at Armored Cow Brewing, O’Rourke answered questions about topics including climate change, student debt and gun control.

The former congressman from El Paso, Texas, sharply criticized Trump for his rhetoric toward people of color and immigrants. Such language has real consequences, O’Rourke said, recounting the anti-immigrant views of the man who drove from Dallas to commit a mass shooting in El Paso that killed 22 people.

“When you have a president who is so openly racist and seeks to make Americans afraid based on our differences, then it is on all of us to call that out and to speak decisively,” he said.

Elyas Mohammed, 36, said he’s been following O’Rourke’s campaign from the beginning. He said O’Rourke’s idea of America is a more inclusive and accepting place.

“I want to live in Beto’s America,” Mohammed said. “…I’m Muslim and I know the feeling of being Muslim in Trump’s America.”

O’Rourke also focused on the issue of gun control and criticized American inaction in the wake of so many mass shootings, including in May when a gunman killed two students, Riley Howell and Ellis “Reed” Parlier, at UNCC.

“How do we have this many gun deaths in a country?” he said. “Why have we prevented the CDC from studying gun deaths? It’s because the NRA has purchased the complicity of members of Congress.”

Related stories from Rock Hill Herald

Hannah Smoot covers business in Charlotte, focusing on health care, aviation and sports business. She previously covered money and power at The Rock Hill Herald in South Carolina. She is a lifelong North Carolinian and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.