President Donald Trump will return Minnesota for a campaign rally next month, marking the latest volley in his bid to flip Minnesota into the Republican column in a presidential contest for the first time in decades.
The rally, scheduled Oct. 10 at Target Center in Minneapolis, will place the president squarely in a Democratic stronghold and the district of one of his frequent political targets: U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., a member of the “squad” of female House Democrats of color with whom he has sparred in recent months.
Omar responded to the news Thursday with a statement addressed to Trump: “Our beautiful state welcomes everyone with open arms. But to be clear: we will continue to reject you and your campaign of lies and bigotry.”
Republicans celebrated Trump’s announcement as a signal that he intends to make good on his vow to carry the state in 2020 — which would be a first for a GOP presidential candidate since Richard Nixon in 1972.
“We are excited for the rally on October 10th and look forward to showing the Democrats how enthusiastic Minnesota Republicans are to send our 10 electoral votes to re-elect President Trump in 2020,” said Minnesota Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan.
Officials in Minneapolis were quick to blast the visit. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said while he would typically welcome a visit from a sitting president, Trump’s “actions have been reprehensible and his rhetoric has made it clear that he does not value the perspectives or rights of Minneapolis’ diverse communities.”
“Our entire city will stand not behind the President, but behind the communities and people who continue to make our city — and this country — great,” Frey said. “While there is no legal mechanism to prevent the president from visiting, his message of hatred will never be welcome in Minneapolis.”
City Council President Lisa Bender echoed Frey’s statements, saying Trump’s “hate is not welcome in our community but we cannot stop the visit.”
“I know this event will cause stress and fear — the city will do all we can, and ask for support, in keeping everyone safe,” she said.
The city of Minneapolis owns the 19,356-seat Target Center but hires AEG Worldwide to manage the space and book events, said City Attorney Susan Segal. As a result, decisions on who books the venue don’t go through City Hall. In the contract with AEG, the city could not include any prohibitions on events that might violate the First Amendment, she added.
Trump’s rallies routinely attract large and boisterous crowds. A 2018 speech at Rochester’s Mayo Civic Center drew a capacity crowd of 10,000, with thousands more watching from overflow areas. Mark Ruff, Minneapolis’ CFO and interim city coordinator, said city officials are expecting demonstrations and protests outside Target Center in addition to the rally inside. City staff are starting to plan for the event and will coordinate with other public agencies, as they did during the Super Bowl and Final Four, he said.
The rally will mark Trump’s fourth visit to the Minnesota in the past 16 months, including a visit to Burnsville last April for a tax event. He visited Duluth and Rochester in 2018.
Michael Glassner, chief operating officer of Trump’s presidential campaign committee, highlighted the president’s record on job creation and the economy in a statement announcing the visit.
“President Trump has delivered on his promises and he looks forward to celebrating those successes with the great men and women of Minnesota,” he said.
Freshman GOP Rep. Pete Stauber, who represents a northern Minnesota district that Trump carried by 15 percentage points in 2016, echoed the jobs message in a tweet celebrating the news of the rally.
“For more than two years @realDonaldTrump has been working to unleash the economic engine in Minnesota!” he tweeted. “Let’s do this!”
Trump, buoyed by a narrow, 44,000-vote loss in Minnesota in 2016, has made no secret of his desire to end the GOP losing streak. Trump Victory, a joint effort between the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, has already hired a Minnesota state director and held a series of volunteer training sessions meant to mobilize supporters. The president has made his pledge to win Minnesota the subject of numerous social media posts, tweeting about local issues, such as St. Louis Park’s Pledge of Allegiance debate, and repeatedly criticizing Omar.
Some political handicappers have questioned whether Trump can replicate and expand his strong 2016 showing in the state. The 2018 midterms, largely seen as a referendum on the president, delivered big gains for Minnesota Democrats. DFL candidates swept all six statewide races, picked up two suburban congressional seats and flipped 16 state House seats to secure majority control of the lower chamber. And despite the close margin in 2016, the raw number of Minnesotans casting a ballot for the Republican nominee was up just 3,000 votes over 2012, when Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney by 7 percentage points.
Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin said Thursday he is confident Minnesota voters will reject the Trump agenda, including the trade war that has hit Midwestern farmers hard. He also cited the just-launched impeachment proceedings in Congress.
Republicans say enthusiasm among Trump supporters in the state has grown since 2016, and some political observers point to evidence that the state has become more competitive in recent years. Given the stakes, campaigns and outside groups working on behalf of both parties are expected to heavily court Minnesota voters in 2020. A number of Democratic presidential candidates have already made visits to the state, and top campaigns are expected to begin staffing up on the ground here soon.