Trump, Biden vie for Minnesota

Source: By Morgan Chalfant, The Hill • Posted: Monday, September 21, 2020

Trump, Biden vie for Minnesota

President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden are making separate pitches to voters in Minnesota, a reliably blue state that has emerged as an unusual battleground in the 2020 election.

Both Trump and Biden traveled to Minnesota on Friday as early voting began in the state, where polls overall show the former vice president with an advantage over the incumbent president.

Biden, speaking from the Jerry Alander Carpenter Training Center in Hermantown, a northeast suburb of Duluth, ripped into Trump’s response to the coronavirus, painting Trump as selfish and incapable of navigating the country through crises.

The former vice president advocated for his economic and infrastructure agendas, casting himself as a champion for American workers and unions who would raise the minimum wage to $15, create jobs for skilled workers and increase taxes for those earning over $400,000.

“It’s about time we start rewarding work,not wealth,” Biden said. “I’m not looking to punish anybody but dammit it’s about time the wealthy and corporate America start paying their fair share.”

Later, Trump staged a large campaign rally outdoors in Bemidji, accusing Biden of giving union jobs “to China,” claiming to have “rescued” Minnesota’s Iron Range with his policies and attacking Biden’s mental fitness for office.

He also told throngs of supporters that Biden would “flood your state with an influx of refugees from Somalia” and described Biden, a moderate, as a proponent of “radical left” policies.

“Your state will be overrun and destroyed if the radical left wins,” Trump told a crowd at Bemidji Regional Airport Friday evening. “They have not treated Minnesota right.”

Trump was on stage when the dramatic and shocking news of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg‘s death was announced. That news will shape the race for the White House, and the state of Minnesota.

An ABC News-Washington Post poll released Wednesday found Biden beating Trump 57 percent to 41 percent among likely voters in Minnesota, while a Morning Consult poll found Biden leading Trump 48 percent to 44 percent.

Minnesota has not voted for a Republican for president since 1972, when Richard Nixon won the election in a landslide.

“I will definitely say that history and mood would give Biden an edge,” Blois Olson, political communications strategist in Minnesota who authors a daily political newsletter.

Still, the Trump campaign views Minnesota as perhaps the best opportunity to flip a state that the president lost in 2016. Trump lost Minnesota to Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 by 1.5 percentage points, and the campaign has invested heavily in TV advertising in the state and early on built a significant ground game this cycle.

On a call with reporters organized by the Trump campaign Friday morning, Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.), who was elected in 2018 to represent Minnesota’s 8th congressional district, described Trump’s agenda as a boon for rural northern Minnesota’s mining and manufacturing industries while arguing that Biden’s environmental and trade agenda would hurt jobs.

“This president has the backs of the blue collar, middle class worker and I think that the contrast today is evident,” said Stauber. “The enthusiasm for this president is incredible because he supports those middle-class, blue-collar jobs.”

Trump’s potential victory in Minnesota will be largely dependent on turning out GOP voters in suburban and rural areas of the state. Olson said that Trump may face challenges turning out farmers, citing frustrations about the trade war with China and Renewable Fuel Standard waivers granted to refineries.

“If there is any slippage among farmers, that hurts him,” Olson said.

Vin Weber, a Republican strategist who represented Minnesota’s 2nd congressional district from 1981 to 1993, said that Trump is smart to try to flip Minnesota. But he said it was important that the campaign recognize the tremendous growth of the population in the metro areas and the accompanying need to be competitive in the suburbs if he wants to ultimately win the state.

“He might be able to do that,” Weber said. “It’s not impossible.”

Minnesota was the epicenter of the national debate on race and policing earlier this year, when George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Trump’s main argument to suburban voters has been a message of restoring “law and order” as violence and destruction accompanied protests in the wake of Floyd’s death in Minnesota and other metro areas.

The latest Post-ABC survey indicates, however, that his message is not resonating broadly in the state, with Minnesota voters trusting Biden over Trump to handle crime and safety by an 11-point margin.

Weber said it was difficult to determine whether or not the argument would ultimately help Trump expand his support, noting that policing is typically viewed as a state and local issue and that it may not translate into votes in a presidential race. He also argued that Trump would be best served to focus his rhetoric on the economy, where he is strongest.

“We do know how people respond to the economic issue and he has an edge on the economic issue,” Weber said. “I would really put a lot more on talking about the economy and taxes.”

Biden, who has accused Trump of fomenting the violence, has focused largely on Trump’s response to the coronavirus throughout his campaign — something he did in his speech near Duluth on Friday.

Biden argued that thousands of lives would have been saved if Trump had recognized the threat from the virus earlier on, and asserted the president has been concerned only by the strength of the stock market and his reelection campaign.

“How many people across the Iron Range, how many empty chairs around those dinner tables because of his negligence and selfishness? How many lies said and lives lost?” Biden said.

Biden’s campaign has taken Trump’s challenge in Minnesota seriously, spending millions on TV advertising. Minnesota Democrats have built an operation that has successfully turned out voters in urban and suburban areas, where the majority of the state’s population resides.

But Democrats say they’re not becoming complacent as the polls show Biden with a lead over Trump.

“We are certainly not resting on our laurels or taking anything for granted,” said Ken Martin, chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. “The 2016 election was a big wakeup call for us and we’re running like we are 20 points behind even if the polls show we’re 20 points ahead.”

Martin said that the Democrats have a field operation of a few hundred organizers, and have been relying fully on virtual contacts during the pandemic in order to engage voters before the election.

Both campaigns have sent prominent surrogates to Minnesota in recent weeks; Jill Biden, the former vice president’s wife, and Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, appeared in different parts of Minnesota on the same date earlier in September. The Trump campaign announced Friday that Vice President Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior adviser, would host a “Cops for Trump” listening session in Minneapolis next week.