Trump Hopes To Turn Blue State Minnesota To Red

Oct 10, 2019
Originally published on October 10, 2019 8:04 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Trump built his 2016 election victory on three states that had seemed reliably blue. Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin all seemed solidly Democratic in presidential voting until Trump won. For 2020, the president hopes to compete in one more blue state, Wisconsin's Midwestern neighbor, Minnesota. He's holding a rally in Minneapolis, hoping to become the first Republican to win Minnesota since Richard Nixon in 1972. Here's Mark Zdechlik of Minnesota Public Radio.

MARK ZDECHLIK, BYLINE: Thousands of Trump fans and opponents are expected inside and outside the rally, the president's first since House Democrats formally launched their impeachment inquiry. As Republicans rally around President Donald Trump, Democrats have plenty of candidates but no good sense of who will become their nominee to run against him next year. Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party chairman Ken Martin says the nomination battle threatens Democrats' chances going into the 2020 election.

KEN MARTIN: There's no doubt. The longer this nominating contest goes on, the steeper the hill is for us in terms of beating Donald Trump.

ZDECHLIK: And Martin says Republican fundraising and organizing efforts in Minnesota should be of particular concern. Trump narrowly lost here in 2016, but he may need the state's 10 electoral college votes if he loses any of the other states where he had a close victory in his first campaign. Although Democrats do not have a presumptive nominee yet, organizer Elianne Farhat says efforts are being made to counter Trump.

ELIANNE FARHAT: We are very clear-eyed that Donald Trump has set his eyes on Minnesota and on winning in 2020. We knew that very early on and so have been preparing and building the statewide infrastructure to beat him again.

ZDECHLIK: Farhat is the executive director of TakeAction Minnesota, an organization that endorses what it considers progressive candidates. Her group won't have a presence at the big demonstrations against Trump today, but Farhat says they stand ready to convert anger and frustration into political organizing.

FARHAT: When folks go out and when they protest Donald Trump when he is here, I think that's a good response, if that's what they need to do. That cannot be all that we do. We are doubling down on our organizing. We are putting out messages that connect people across difference, across race, class, gender, zip code.

ZDECHLIK: Trump lost Minnesota by fewer than 45,000 votes in 2016, but not because he dramatically outperformed Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican candidate. The big difference was on the Democratic side. Hillary Clinton drew nearly 180,000 fewer votes than Barack Obama did four years earlier. Political consultant Matt Fuehrmeyer helped Democrats win control of the House in last year's midterm elections in his position with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Looking to 2020, Fuehrmeyer says Democrats cannot continue allowing Trump's reelection campaign to outpace them.

MATT FUEHRMEYER: You're seeing a lot of money in organizations sitting on the sidelines waiting for a nominee. Which, frankly, they can't afford to do if we want to take back the White House.

ZDECHLIK: Fuehrmeyer thinks Democratic leaders in Minnesota understand the threat Trump poses. He's concerned Democrats outside of the state do not.

FUEHRMEYER: National Democrats and, you know, folks with the resources and the money to help the party win back the White House need to see Minnesota not as a state that Democrats are going to win but a state that Democrats have to fight for.

ZDECHLIK: GOP officials say they already have 25 paid staffers connected to the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign on the ground in Minnesota. By next year, they plan to quadruple that number. For NPR News, I'm Mark Zdechlik in St. Paul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.