President Trump narrowly lost Minnesota in 2016 despite making a relatively minor effort here, and the state is one that he hopes to pick up in 2020. Both Scott and I have been asked many times, as Minnesota residents and long-time observers, whether we think Trump has a good chance to carry the state this year. We both have responded pessimistically, based on a long series of Republican losses in statewide contests and a trend toward the Democrats in Twin Cities suburbs.
But a Star Tribune poll released on Sunday offers hope. The results aren’t overwhelming, by any means: 44% approval vs. 52% disapproval statewide. But Trump’s victory in 2016 didn’t depend on sky-high approval ratings; it resulted from voters preferring him to Hillary Clinton, regardless of whether they “approved” of him or not. The same will be true in spades this year, with Berne Sanders the likely Democratic nominee.
But this is the striking finding:
[I]n the metro suburbs, which are expected to be heavily targeted by both parties this November, 54 % voiced approval.
The Twin Cities suburbs are the state’s key battleground. It was a suburban swing to the Democrats in 2018 that drove the Republican wipeout here in that year. Richard Baris is a pollster whom I don’t know, but his comments are spot on:
Anyhoo… in the burbs, Donald Trump was polling at around 47%. That's it. He ended up performing a point or so better than that, but overall it was his lead in rural North and South that made that race so close.
If he's at 54% today as the Star Tribune Poll finds, it's over…
— Richard Baris (@Peoples_Pundit) February 25, 2020
He’s right. If President Trump really is close to 54% approval in the Twin Cities suburbs, the state is very much in play this year. If not, as Baris says, “over” in Trump’s favor.
UPDATE: I should have noted a key fact, which is that the Strib’s reference to “suburbs” excludes Hennepin and Ramsey counties. Without researching the point, I would estimate that over half of the Twin Cities’ suburban population is located in those two counties. Much of what is left would properly be described as “exurban.” You would expect Trump to do better in outer-tier, exurban communities than in inner-tier suburbs. What I don’t know is whether Richard Baris’s comparison was apples to apples–suburbs, not including Hennepin and Ramsey counties–or whether his 2016 numbers were for the entire Twin Cities suburbs. I suspect the latter.