DULUTH – Five weeks before the election, President Donald Trump was back in Minnesota on Wednesday, raising money and rallying a few thousand supporters on a cold, blustery night.
He claimed credit for adding jobs to the Iron Range, a refrain he also sounded a year ago when visiting Minneapolis, and expressed support for some of the area’s most controversial topics, including copper-nickel mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and replacing the aging Line 3 Enbridge oil pipeline.
“Now they’re all back,” he said of thousands of Iron Range jobs, seemingly unaware that the region’s mines have been struggling with closures and furloughs since the pandemic began.
In a part of the state where a decadeslong tension between key industries and the environment has driven votes, Trump placed mining on a pedestal. He noted that he signed a new executive order Wednesday to expand the country’s production of minerals, which he claimed will bring more jobs to the region.
“If I lose Minnesota, I’m never coming back,” he said near the end of his 45-minute speech.
Trump’s visit came a day after a widely panned debate performance against Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
He returned to themes of previous Minnesota visits, falsely claiming Biden would turn the state into a refugee camp and igniting “lock her up” chants against U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar.
Trump also noted with surprise that he’s doing badly in Minnesota’s suburbs and made the false claim that Biden would eliminate single-family zoning. He mused about staying in office up to 16 years, in violation of the two-term limit set in the Constitution.
The more than 3,000 people in the crowd often cheered wildly, with some standing on chairs to glimpse the descent of Air Force One.
Bobbi Jo Smith and Tianna Tetrick drove from the Lake Mille Lacs area to stand in line for hours.
“I just feel like the Democratic Party has been taken over,” Smith said. “… For all of us middle-class people, they just left us behind to line their own pockets.”
It was Trump’s seventh visit to Minnesota since taking office, and his second to northern Minnesota since early voting started in the state Sept. 18, when he rallied supporters in Bemidji.
Earlier in the evening, Trump attended a GOP fundraiser in Shorewood at the Lake Minnetonka home of Cambria President and CEO Marty Davis. He stayed about 90 minutes and made no public comments.
According to a Republican National Committee official, the event was expected to bring in $7 million for Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee run by and benefiting the Trump campaign and the party.
Among those greeting Trump at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport were Minnesota Senate Republican Leader Paul Gazelka, House GOP Leader Kurt Daudt and U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis.
Before Trump’s visit, Biden’s campaign released a list of endorsements from 45 leaders in Minnesota’s Iron Range.
Biden, meanwhile, embarked on an eight-stop train tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Trump’s two-stop visit Wednesday marks the first of a series of campaign stops this week by the candidates and their surrogates.
Former Second Lady Jill Biden is scheduled to campaign in Minnesota on Saturday, making her second stop in the state since her husband secured the Democratic nomination.
Eric Trump, the president’s second son, will hold an event Thursday in Becker. And Biden’s running mate, California U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, is scheduled to address a virtual gathering of the DFL’s annual Humphrey-Mondale Dinner on Thursday.
Connie Sylvester, a small-business owner in Duluth and self-proclaimed “recovering Democrat,” attended the Duluth rally.
She supports Trump but doesn’t think his debate performance won him new votes. “My advice to him would be: God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason,” she said.
Hours before leaving Washington, Trump took to Twitter and took credit for quelling the unrest that rocked the Twin Cities after the police killing of George Floyd in May. “Heading to Minnesota today,” Trump tweeted. “Saved Minneapolis after the Dem LEFT almost let it be TOTALLY destroyed!”
The riots and arson were actually brought under control when Gov. Tim Walz called in the Minnesota National Guard and State Patrol.
An MPR News/Star Tribune/KARE-11 Minnesota Poll of 800 likely voters a week before the debate showed Biden leading Trump by 48 to 42%, with 8% undecided.
Staff writers Kevin Diaz and Katy Read contributed to this report.