Minnesota, reliably Democratic in presidential elections since it went for Richard Nixon in 1972, is emerging as a swing state this year, possibly just in time to salvage President Trump’s reelection bid.
Trump trails Democratic nominee Joe Biden in as many as eight swing states — Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin — while holding narrow leads in the typically deep red battlegrounds of Georgia and Texas. With so many flanks to guard, Trump’s rising fortunes in Minnesota, a state representing perhaps his lone offensive opportunity, could prove critical to his second-term prospects.
With the Labor Day kickoff of the fall campaign in the rearview mirror, Biden’s lead over Trump in Minnesota was down to 5 percentage points, 49.5% to 44.5%. That puts the president in striking distance of the state’s 10 Electoral College votes.
Trump is gaining ground with culturally conservative, blue-collar voters across rural northern Minnesota that have voted Democratic for decades. The transformation is part of a trend that began in 2016 and has seen the president, and down-ballot Republicans, convert longtime Democratic voters into Republicans because of concerns that the Democrats have become a party of liberal, coastal elites.
In late August, six Democratic mayors in northeast Minnesota’s Iron Range endorsed Trump, citing Biden’s support for international trade deals and the Democratic Party’s hostility to mining, a major driver of jobs in the region. This realignment also is boosting Republican Jason Lewis, who is hoping to pull off a surprise upset of incumbent Democratic Sen. Tina Smith.
Biden is not taking any chances. His campaign began advertising on television in Minnesota in late August. But the former vice president and Smith still have the advantage there, less than eight weeks before Election Day, despite civil unrest that roiled Minneapolis after George Floyd, a black man, died when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul dominates Minnesota politics. And, not only is the region home to a thriving population of liberal voters, the adjacent suburban communities that, in past years, voted Republican for president and Congress, continue to reject Trump. That is true despite the destruction from riots in downtown Minneapolis and Trump’s promise to restore “law and order” and warning that Biden in the White House would lead to more violence.
If Minnesota moves more in Trump’s direction, expect to see more outside groups, Democratic and Republican, invest in the state.