Minnesota burst back into prominence in the final hours of the presidential campaign Sunday as Republican candidate Donald Trump made a last-minute stop in the Twin Cities, and Democrats fanned out across the state for Hillary Clinton.
“If I don’t win Minnesota, I’m going to look real bad to those pundits I don’t respect very much,” said Trump, drawing roaring applause from about 5,000 supporters inside a Sun Country Airlines hangar Sunday afternoon, and thousands more outside. “This is our last chance. We’re not going to have another chance. Four years, you can forget it.”
Party advocates and activists spent the weekend making last-ditch appeals in every corner of the state as the airwaves were taken over by a barrage of ads for Trump, Clinton and local candidates. The presidential campaigns and PACs have poured millions of dollars into a final nationwide advertising blitz.
Clinton’s local DFL advocates called a news conference Sunday to decry a candidate who “insults Gold Star families who have made the ultimate sacrifice, mocks people with disabilities, and calls women ‘fat pigs,’ ‘bimbos’ and ‘dogs.’ ”
“It’s clear Minnesotans have seen the way he treats women, immigrants, his workers, people with disabilities and Gold Star families and know that he is temperamentally unfit to be president,” said Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis.
Clinton started Sunday preaching at a black church in Philadelphia and also made stops in New Hampshire and Ohio, pledging to continue the policies of President Obama. She laid out a positive message in the final hours, championing “hopes over fear, unity over division and love over hate.”
Her campaign chairman, John Podesta, expressed confidence on ABC’s “This Week” that Clinton will win Minnesota and Michigan, which suddenly emerged as a swing state.
“We feel good about Minnesota,” Podesta said. “You know, [Trump] made that last-minute change to abandon Wisconsin and go to Minnesota — we’re not sure why he did that.”
A Star Tribune Minnesota Poll from late October showed Clinton with an 8 percentage point lead over Trump, an advantage that had grown from September.
Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey said Trump’s visit infused a jolt of energy and excitement for all Republican candidates in the campaign’s closing hours.
Trump vows upset
Trump has built a devoted following in Minnesota and has vowed to shock the world with an Election Day upset as the polls have tightened nationally.
At the rally, mostly white supporters, including many young families, lined up for hours to hear Trump’s speech.
He bashed Democrats for soaring health insurance rates and for trade deals that hurt workers at home. He promised to end the overseas outsourcing of jobs and said ISIL has “infiltrated” Minnesota and that he will not allow resettlement of refugees without the support of local communities.
“Here in Minnesota, you can see firsthand with problems with … refugees,” Trump said, noting the large number of Somalis in the state. “You see the recent terrorist knife attack in St. Cloud? Hillary supports totally open borders.”
When he expressed disappointment with the FBI’s decision, announced Sunday, not to pursue charges against Clinton for her use of a private e-mail server as secretary of state, the crowd chanted, “Lock her up! Lock her up!”
DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin strongly objected to Trump’s criticism of the state’s East African community.
“Minnesotans reject Donald Trump’s hateful and bigoted comments about our Somali friends and neighbors, and this kind of rhetoric has no place in our state,” he said.
Flexing its organizational superiority in Minnesota, the DFL Coordinated Campaign said it knocked on 40,000 doors in the state on behalf of Clinton during Trump’s 40-minute speech.
Earlier in the weekend, U.S. Sen. Al Franken and U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum gave pep talks to a group of DFL door-knockers and phone bank callers at the Clinton campaign’s Minnesota headquarters.
“Let’s help Hillary take this guy,” Franken said. Noting that he first met Clinton 23 years ago, Franken said, “I’ve never known someone who is tougher, smarter or harder working.”
Races for Congress and the Legislature
The campaign barnstorming extended beyond the presidential campaign.
Randy Jessup, a Republican, is running against Rep. Barb Yarusso, DFL-Shoreview, after she beat him by 220 votes in 2014. The GOP hopes a pickup in this northern suburban district would prevent the DFL from flipping the seven seats needed for majority.
“Weather takes precedence over politics because it’s been so warm — everyone is happy,” said Jessup, while walking an Arden Hills neighborhood Saturday.
In the Second Congressional District, where the retirement of longtime Republican congressman John Kline has sparked a heated — and expensive — battle for the open seat, volunteers for both major party candidates were out in force.
Greeting his campaign workers, Republican Jason Lewis said an uptick in Trump’s polling numbers, coupled with new concerns about costs of the Affordable Care Act in Minnesota, could be helping candidates in his party.
Nearby, Democrat Angie Craig was reminding voters of the vast divide between her and Lewis on issues ranging from climate change to the cost of college.
In Minnetonka, state Sen. Terri Bonoff thanked supporters and encouraged them to keep working to help elect her as she hopes to unseat GOP U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen.
“You are so very important because this race is razor thin,” Bonoff said.
Paulsen spent Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon knocking on doors in the Third District, which encompasses the western Hennepin County suburbs of Eden Prairie and Minnetonka, Maple Grove to the north and Bloomington to the south.
And up in the northern Eighth Congressional District, Republican Stewart Mills, who hopes to unseat Democratic incumbent Rep. Rick Nolan, was going deer hunting early before starting a campaign blitz in the sprawling district.
“If you don’t go hunting in the Eighth Congressional District, you probably won’t win,” he said, with a smile.
Staff writers Erin Golden, Patrick Condon, J. Patrick Coolican and Ricardo Lopez contributed to this report.