Live coverage: Trump and Biden hit unlikely battleground state of Minnesota

Joe Biden (left) and President Donald Trump. AP images.

Donald Trump almost won Minnesota in 2016 and sees it as a state he can peel away from Democrat Joe Biden in November. That could potentially help insulate him in case he loses any battlegrounds that backed him four years ago.

Posted: Sep 18, 2020 6:17 AM
Updated: Sep 18, 2020 3:30 PM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota has backed Democratic presidential candidates for nearly half a century and rarely receives much attention during the final stages of the race. This is when campaigns typically focus their resources on more traditional swing states like Florida or Pennsylvania.

But Minnesota will feel like a genuine battleground on Friday as President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, campaign here to mark the beginning of early voting.

They're expected to avoid the state's most populated areas near Minneapolis to focus on largely white rural and working-class voters, some of whom shifted to Republicans for the first time in 2016. Trump will be in Bemidji, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) north of Minneapolis, while Biden will swing through Duluth, on the banks of Lake Superior and close to the Wisconsin border.

Since narrowly losing Minnesota in 2016, Trump has emphasized the state in hopes that a victory this year could offset losses in other states. He has visited regularly and kept a close eye on issues of particular importance to rural corners of the state. He's reversed an Obama administration policy prohibiting the development of copper-nickel mining and has bailed out soybean, corn and other farmers who have been hurt by trade clashes with China.

More recently, he's embraced a “law and order” message aimed nationally at white suburban and rural voters who may be concerned by protests that have sometimes become violent. That's especially true in Minnesota, where the May killing of George Floyd by a police officer sparked a national reckoning on racism.

But for all the work Trump has put into the state, it may elude him again in November.

A series of polls over the past week show Biden has built a consistent lead in Minnesota. And in the 2018 midterms, Democratic turnout surged in suburbs, small cities and even on the Iron Range, across the blue-collar mining towns that were once labor strongholds but had been trending Republican.

David McIntosh, president of the conservative Club for Growth, which has produced anti-Biden ads, said Minnesota may help the Trump campaign build momentum.

“They’re looking beyond the poll numbers and seeing the potential there,” said McIntosh, a former congressman from Indiana. “It’s always smart strategy to go on offense somewhere.”

In 2018, Democrats flipped two suburban congressional districts, took back control of the state House by winning suburban Trump-voting areas and came within one seat of winning control of the state Senate. Democrats won every statewide race that year, even as they lost a rural congressional district.

Trump’s path to Minnesota success likely depends on finding more votes in rural, conservative areas –- running up the score beyond his 2016 tally. It’s a strategy he’s trying to pull off in other states and it depends on a robust field operation with the money and time to track down infrequent or first-time voters. That could be a tall order since Minnesota already has one of the nation's highest voter turnout rates.

“I don’t think they’re there,” said Joe Radinovich, a Democrat who lost a bid for a northern Minnesota congressional district in 2018. Radinovich noted the major organizational challenge and expense in tracking new voters, making sure they’re registered and getting them to vote – especially during a pandemic. “We have relatively high turnout already. Most people vote. I just don’t think it’s there. I think those people showed up in 2016,” he said.

In 2016, Trump won that district, which includes the Democratic city of Duluth, by 15 percentage points. But in the midterms two years later, Radinovich lost by just under 6 percentage points.

Still, Trump has spent more than a year building a sizable Minnesota ground game. Republicans are out knocking on doors and interacting personally with voters in ways that Democrats mostly have not, preferring online operations because of the coronavirus.

The president’s reelection campaign announced this week a $10 million ad buy in a series of states, including Minnesota. It has spent nearly $17 million on advertising in the state since last October, compared with almost $6.3 million for Biden over the same period, according to a review of Kantar/CMAG data by The Associated Press.

Democrats warn that Biden still may have his work cut out for him. Duluth Mayor Emily Larson said the Trump campaign has far outpaced Biden in local yard signs — which indicates enthusiasm but may not ultimately affect the outcome.

"One of the things the Trump campaign has been very good about is visibility in Duluth, but also in areas around Duluth,” Larson said.

Ken Martin, chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, said that while Biden isn’t likely to carry the congressional district that includes Duluth, he might be able to pick up enough support there to deny Trump the votes he needs to win statewide.

“If your opponent is on the ropes or on the ground," Martin said "you don’t let them get up.”

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 142311

Reported Deaths: 2472
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin35484995
Ramsey14726372
Dakota10271139
Anoka9344155
Washington636273
Stearns625550
Scott360436
Olmsted340230
St. Louis325874
Wright273116
Clay252944
Nobles234318
Blue Earth21147
Carver18887
Sherburne183122
Kandiyohi18215
Rice170210
Mower154518
Winona133619
Chisago11562
Crow Wing114322
Benton103311
Lyon10306
Beltrami9618
Otter Tail9508
Waseca94510
Todd8967
Polk8364
Morrison8259
Steele8013
Itasca78817
Douglas7744
Nicollet77118
Freeborn7185
Le Sueur6646
Goodhue65111
Martin62618
Becker6214
McLeod6214
Isanti5995
Watonwan5824
Pine5770
Carlton5092
Chippewa4733
Mille Lacs44918
Hubbard4344
Cass4225
Wabasha4141
Dodge4130
Pipestone36617
Meeker3593
Rock3595
Brown3483
Roseau3300
Redwood29912
Yellow Medicine2986
Murray2973
Cottonwood2950
Fillmore2770
Renville27213
Sibley2663
Wadena2643
Faribault2520
Houston2381
Unassigned23853
Kanabec23710
Swift2252
Jackson2211
Pennington2181
Aitkin1982
Stevens1941
Lincoln1930
Koochiching1755
Pope1680
Big Stone1591
Marshall1511
Lac qui Parle1453
Wilkin1454
Clearwater1381
Norman1340
Lake1330
Mahnomen1292
Grant1054
Red Lake822
Traverse590
Kittson530
Lake of the Woods441
Cook190

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 122218

Reported Deaths: 1691
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk19732289
Woodbury743799
Linn6038133
Johnson602431
Black Hawk5974102
Dubuque550658
Scott487343
Story411118
Dallas357347
Pottawattamie337845
Sioux254417
Buena Vista230212
Marshall212236
Webster196015
Plymouth172831
Wapello158962
Clinton156228
Muscatine153958
Des Moines151611
Cerro Gordo150227
Crawford138714
Warren13137
Carroll120413
Jasper119734
Henry11245
Marion106811
Lee101312
Tama100538
Delaware82713
Dickinson7939
Wright7591
Boone7509
Mahaska73824
Bremer7199
Harrison69716
Washington69311
Jackson6853
Benton6482
Lyon5688
Clay5574
Louisa54415
Winnebago52119
Cedar5087
Winneshiek5079
Hardin5017
Jones5004
Kossuth4970
Clayton4923
Buchanan4875
Hamilton4825
Poweshiek47611
Floyd46211
Emmet45321
Iowa4429
Cass4233
Mills4233
Guthrie42015
Page4200
Cherokee4122
Sac4114
Butler4083
Fayette4064
Shelby4022
Allamakee3999
Franklin39518
Madison3743
Chickasaw3731
Hancock3676
Humboldt3593
Clarke3573
Grundy3406
Palo Alto3292
Calhoun3264
Osceola3020
Mitchell2961
Howard2879
Monroe27212
Union2645
Taylor2602
Jefferson2591
Appanoose2503
Monona2492
Pocahontas2442
Fremont2152
Lucas2136
Ida2122
Adair1971
Greene1930
Montgomery1907
Davis1884
Van Buren1882
Keokuk1731
Decatur1620
Audubon1601
Worth1470
Wayne1373
Ringgold992
Adams841
Unassigned60
Rochester
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Austin
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