President Donald Trump just can’t quit Minnesota.
The Republican incumbent returns on Monday to a state whose 10 electoral votes have become something of a fixation for him after coming within less than 45,000 votes of carrying the state in 2016.
Trump is scheduled to hold an afternoon event in Mankato in the midst of a tough re-election fight against Democrat Joe Biden, who has been holding a persistent lead in national and battleground-state polls.
That includes Minnesota, although some recent polls of the state suggest a tighter race here than in some battleground states that Trump carried four years ago.
An Emerson Poll of 733 Minnesota voters taken August 8-10 had Biden at 50% and Trump at 47%, a difference within the poll’s margin of sampling error. A Morning Consult poll in July had Biden ahead of Trump 47-44%, also within the margin. And a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll in May had Biden edging Trump 49-44%.
A Fox News poll in July had better news for Biden, at 51-38% over Trump.
With polls showing Trump trailing Biden in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania and even Florida, the president could be forced to pick off a few states he lost in ’16. And there’s no state that he lost by a closer margin than Minnesota.
According to GOP insiders, Trump became convinced he could have won Minnesota with one more campaign visit. He visited the state twice: once in August 2016 for a private fundraiser that drew a rowdy protest outside the Minneapolis Convention Center; and for a last-minute rally at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport the Sunday before the election.
Since taking office, Trump has been back to Minnesota four times (Monday will make it five). He held midterm election campaign rallies in Duluth and Rochester in 2018, made an official White House visit to a Burnsville business in April 2019, and returned to Minneapolis for a raucous Target Center rally last October.
By contrast, former President Barack Obama visited Minnesota six times during his eight years in the White House: three in his first term and three in his second. Obama, of course, comfortably carried Minnesota by healthy margins in 2008 and 2012.
Each of Trump’s successive visits has brought a new vow to carry Minnesota this year.
“I hate to bring this up, but we came this close to winning the state of Minnesota,” Trump said from the stage of Duluth’s Amsoil Arena in June 2018. “And in two and a half years, it’s going to be really, really easy, I think.”
At his Target Center rally last October, Trump reveled in his combative political style in a rambling speech that stretched to 102 minutes and included name-calling of Rep. Ilhan Omar and Mayor Jacob Frey and a vulgar put-down of Biden.
The coronavirus pandemic has put a halt to Trump’s rallies for now. His campaign described the Mankato event as simply “remarks” about jobs and the economy. So maybe we can expect a more muted tone from the president.
Or maybe not.