Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden railed on Donald Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and promised to unite a divided nation during a campaign stop in Minnesota on Friday, part of a swing through critical Midwestern battleground states four days before the election.
The drive-in style rally at the State Fairgrounds in Falcon Heights was Biden’s second visit to Minnesota in recent months, a state that hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since 1972. While Biden said Friday he wasn’t worried about his level of support in Minnesota, he also didn’t take it for granted after Trump came within 44,000 votes of beating Hillary Clinton here four years ago.
Noting that he was 7 miles from where George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police in May, Biden disavowed the rioting and looting that destroyed businesses and property across the Twin Cities. But he said Floyd’s name would “not be soon forgotten.”
“We choose hope over fear. Unity over division. Science over fiction,” Biden said. “And yes, truth over lies. So it’s time to stand up and take back our democracy.”
Polls have consistently shown Biden ahead of Trump in Minnesota, but Trump has campaigned in the state four times this year, holding a rally in Rochester just hours after Biden’s address. It’s the second time this cycle that both candidates campaigned in the state on the same day. Trump was also in Minnesota for a Bemidji rally in September, the same day Biden toured a labor facility and addressed supporters in Duluth.
It’s a shift in strategy for Democrats in Minnesota, a state Hillary Clinton didn’t visit in-person after she received the Democratic nomination four years ago.
Jogging up to the stage in his signature aviator sunglasses, Biden wore a mask but took it off at the start of the speech. At one point, he held it up and called it a “patriotic duty” to wear one during the pandemic.
Most of his roughly 20-minute address was focused on COVID-19 and health care. He criticized Trump for learning in January that the virus could spread through the air and withholding the information from the public. He said he would boost contact tracing and testing as president and listen to scientists.
Biden also contrasted himself with Trump on the issue of refugee resettlement, after Trump accused him at an October rally in Duluth of having a plan “to inundate your state with a historic flood of refugees.”
Biden said Trump “shamelessly equates Somali refugees — folks seeking a better life in America, contributing to this state and to our country — with terrorists. We need a president who will bring us together, not pull us apart.”
Biden traveled through Iowa earlier on Friday and headed to Wisconsin after his Minnesota speech. The audience was socially distanced inside their cars facing a stage. Some tuned in to the program on their car radios and honked their horns, while others stood outside their vehicles and cheered during the address. Organizers said they abided by state COVID-19 guidelines for outdoor events and limited attendees to 250.
Dozens of Trump supporters staged a counterprotest during Biden’s speech, chanting “four more years” and trying to disrupt the event with noisemakers about 100 yards off to the side of the stage. “They are not very polite, but they’re like Trump,” Biden said, mostly ignoring the counterdemonstration.
DFL leaders like Gov. Tim Walz and Minnesota U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith urged voters to make sure their ballot is counted this year, particularly those who requested absentee ballots but haven’t mailed them yet. A Thursday ruling from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has imperiled a state rule that would count mail-in ballots received up to a week after Tuesday’s election.
“Now is not the time to sleep,” Walz said. “You’ll wake up on Wednesday morning knowing you did everything you could.”
Ceri Everett, a Biden delegate at the virtual Democratic National Convention, drove up from Red Wing for his speech on Friday.
“I think Minnesota is going to go bluer than 2016,” Everett said. “The energy that we are seeing in rural areas is way different from 2016. We had 20 Clinton signs that I was able to get my hands on in 2016. This year I single-handedly got out almost 800 signs just in Red Wing.”
Tamar Fox of St. Paul came to the rally wearing a blue “Make America Not Embarrassing Again” hat.
“I’m 60 years old and I always vote,” Fox said. “I don’t think it’s ever been more important than it is this year, to vote and to support Joe Biden and what he stands for.”