Former Vice President Joe Biden carried Minnesota in the presidential race on Tuesday, holding the state against a concerted push by President Donald Trump to flip its longstanding political preference for Democrats in national elections.
Biden led Trump by nearly 200,000 votes with more than two-thirds of precincts statewide reporting. The Democrat racked up a lopsided margin in Hennepin County but also appeared poised to win back at least a few greater Minnesota counties Trump carried four years ago.
Minnesota's 10 electoral votes could prove pivotal for Biden in what appeared to be an extremely tight nationwide battle with Trump.
The state found itself this year in an unusual position as a target for both presidential campaigns. Biden and Trump alike swung through the state in the race's closing days.
Biden preserved Minnesota's record of backing the Democrat in the last 11 presidential elections. Trump hoped to be the first Republican chosen by Minnesota voters since Richard Nixon in 1972, while Biden made the state part of his push to secure battleground states of the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes.
Trump's near-win here in 2016 put Minnesota permanently in his sights, and he campaigned in the state four times this year.
Fevered interest in the presidential race was likely the main driver of Minnesota's heavy voter turnout in the days leading up to Election Day, with early voters coming out in record numbers amid a new surge in COVID-19 diagnoses and hospitalizations.
At Rosemount Community Center on Tuesday morning, Neil Duffney and Dustin Kimmes, both 30, had just voted for Biden. Both said they voted third party in 2016 because they didn't think Trump would win.
"It was too important not to vote for Biden," said Duffney, who said he's voted for both parties in past elections but this year went straight Democratic ticket. This time, he said, "I'm really dissatisfied with the Republican Party. I don't like the rhetoric of Trump."
In Richfield, Trump supporter Brent Ruby, 34, held up a Trump flag on a street corner, saying he backs the president because of the economy. As for Biden, Ruby said, "I think he is going to bring us back to being in all kinds of wars, and I think he's going to close down the economy."
Starting last year, Trump's campaign built out an operation here that dwarfed efforts by any other Republican presidential candidate in recent history.
Biden, though slower to send resources to Minnesota, signaled in recent months that he would not take the state for granted. He campaigned in Duluth in September and in St. Paul on Friday. In the weeks leading up to the election, he spent more than Trump on TV commercials in the state.
In 2016, Trump came within about 44,000 votes of carrying Minnesota. He held only one public campaign event in the state and reportedly told Minnesota Republicans he believed he would have carried it with just one more visit.
Reflecting national strategies, Trump focused much of his attention on greater Minnesota — his four campaign stops were Rochester, Bemidji, Duluth and Mankato.
Biden sought to mobilize Democratic strongholds in the Twin Cities and the suburbs while aiming to not lose quite as much rural support as Democrat Hillary Clinton did four years ago.
The Trump administration steered billions of dollars in aid to farmers affected by his trade policies. He promised to return jobs to the economically struggling Iron Range.
In Hibbing on Tuesday, at a voting site at the Greyhound Bus Museum, Ben Erickson, a 33-year-old miner, voted for Trump. "It's pretty easy to know which candidates around here support our business, support our economics," Erickson said.
Closer to the Twin Cities, Ahlia Khan, 19, of Coon Rapids, voted for Biden in her first presidential election — and in a precinct that Trump won by 2 percentage points in 2016.
"I feel like we're going to divide as a nation after today," Khan said. "But I wanted to at least put in my opinion. Also, my mom called me."
Trump sought to leverage the urban unrest that followed the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by championing law enforcement and criticizing calls by some elected officials in Minneapolis to dismantle the police force or reduce police budgets.
Biden criticized the violence and destruction that followed Floyd's death but praised the peaceful protest movement and the push for racial justice.
He opposed calls to defund the police, campaigning instead for police reforms.
Minnesota Democrats also hammered Trump's GOP allies in the state for holding large rallies and ignoring state protocols for social distancing and wearing masks. Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 in early October, shortly after a Twin Cities fundraiser and a rally in Duluth.
Trump used his last campaign stop in Minnesota to rail against the crowd restrictions imposed by Gov. Tim Walz, who enjoys high job approval ratings in the state.
Staff writers Zoë Jackson and Katie Galioto contributed to this report.
Patrick Condon • 612-673-4413