Trump sounds familiar themes in Minnesota campaign swing

©Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

DULUTH, Minn. — Five weeks before the election, President Donald Trump was back in Minnesota on Wednesday, raising money and rallying a few thousand supporters on a cool, blustery night.

He falsely took credit for adding many jobs to the Iron Range, a refrain he also sounded a year ago when visiting Minneapolis, and expressed support for some of the area’s most controversial topics, including copper-nickel mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and replacing the aging Line 3 oil pipeline.

“Now they’re all back,” he said of thousands of Iron Range mining jobs, seemingly unaware that the region’s mines have been struggling with closures and furloughs since the pandemic began. “You better vote for me, Minnesota,” he added.

But mining and logging employment has been among its lowest levels in Minnesota in a decade, according to state figures.

Trump’s visit came a day after a widely panned debate performance against Democratic nominee Joe Biden, and he claimed victory, noting high TV ratings as well.

He also returned to previous themes in Minnesota, falsely claiming Biden would turn the state into a refugee camp and igniting “Lock her up” chants against U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar. He also noted with surprise that he’s doing badly in Minnesota’s suburbs and told the crowd falsely that Biden would eliminate single-family zoning.

The more than 3,000 people who attended often cheered wildly.

Bobbi Jo Smith and Tianna Tetrick arrived at the Duluth airport around 11 a.m. from the Lake Mille Lacs area. “I just feel like the Democratic Party has been taken over,” Smith said. “For all of us middle-class people, they just left us behind to line their own pockets.”

It was Trump’s seventh visit to Minnesota since taking office, and his second to northern Minnesota since early voting started in the state Sept. 18, when he rallied supporters in Bemidji.

The focus on northern Minnesota underscores the importance of working-class voters in the region.

Earlier in the evening, Trump attended a GOP fundraiser in Shorewood at the Lake Minnetonka home of Cambria President and CEO Marty Davis. He stayed about 90 minutes and made no public comments.

According to a Republican National Committee official, the event is expected to bring in $7 million for Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee run by and benefiting the Trump campaign and the party. Davis is a GOP donor who has led efforts to urge Gov. Tim Walz to reopen more of the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among those greeting him at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport were Minnesota Senate Republican Leader Paul Gazelka, House GOP Leader Kurt Daudt and U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis.

Before Trump’s visit, Biden’s campaign released a list of endorsements from 45 leaders in Minnesota’s Iron Range. Biden, meanwhile, embarked on an eight-stop train tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Trump’s two-stop visit Wednesday marks the first of a series of campaign stops this week by the candidates and their surrogates.

Former Second Lady Jill Biden is scheduled to campaign in Minnesota on Saturday, making her second stop in the state since her husband secured the Democratic nomination.

Eric Trump, the president’s second son, will hold an event Thursday in Becker. And Biden’s running mate, California U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, is scheduled to address a virtual gathering of the DFL’s annual Humphrey-Mondale Dinner on Thursday.

Connie Sylvester, a small-business owner in Duluth and self-proclaimed “recovering Democrat,” attended the Duluth rally.

She’s a supporter of Trump but doesn’t think his debate performance won him new votes. “My advice to him would be: God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.”

Hours before leaving Washington, Trump took to Twitter and tried to take credit for quelling the unrest that rocked the Twin Cities after the police killing of George Floyd. “Heading to Minnesota today,” Trump tweeted. “Saved Minneapolis after the Dem LEFT almost let it be TOTALLY destroyed!”

The riots and arson were actually brought under control when Walz called in the Minnesota National Guard and State Patrol.

Dozens of protesters and Trump supporters greeted Trump’s motorcade as he made his way through Shorewood.

An MPR News/Star Tribune/KARE-11 Minnesota Poll of 800 likely voters a week before the debate showed Biden leading Trump by 48% to 42%, with 8% undecided.

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(Minneapolis Star Tribune staff writers Kevin Diaz and Katy Read contributed to this story.)

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©2020 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)