The Urban-Rural Divide In One State

Everyone knows that rural America has gone deep red. That trend came last to the Upper Midwest, but it has arrived in Minnesota with a vengeance. Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District, home to the state’s mining industry, is heavily unionized and was long a Democratic Party bastion. No longer: the 8th, along with the rest of Greater Minnesota, is now Trump country. It is represented by Republican Pete Stauber, a former police officer and union member, who has been endorsed for re-election by every private sector union. Today it would take a miracle for a Democrat to win that seat.

In a post earlier this morning, Scott referred briefly to “the deep resentment of the [Governor Tim] Walz administration felt in outstate Minnesota.” I want to amplify the point and perhaps connect it to national trends.

Tim Walz represented Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District, the southernmost part of the state, for several terms in Congress. He thus seemed to have rural bona fides when he ran for governor two years ago. Since then, his popularity outside the Twin Cities metro area has plummeted. This is due mostly to his extreme, one-man COVID rule that needlessly shut down rural Minnesota, devastating most of the state’s economy. His coddling of criminals and knuckling under to environmental extremists have deepened his unpopularity.

How bad is it? This is one of eight identical billboards that have been erected in outstate Minnesota:

The sponsors’ distaste for Walz is plainly if crudely expressed. But what are the “Rocks & Cows of the North”? Governor Walz famously told his fellow Democrats that they needn’t worry about the fact that on a map, most of Minnesota looks red, since there isn’t anything in those rural areas except “rocks and cows.” Rural Minnesotans have not forgotten the insult.

Parenthetically, as that incident exemplifies, Tim Walz is an intemperate man, given to ill-advised outbursts. I would not rule out the possibility that he himself was the source of the bizarre message that Scott reproduced in his post. Someone should ask him!

Walz is not up for re-election this year, but Minnesota has an interesting Senate race. It pits our friend Jason Lewis against incumbent Tina Smith. Smith is a faceless politician and a lazy campaigner, while Jason is one of the most principled and well-spoken conservatives in public life. No Republican has won a statewide race in Minnesota since 2006, so Jason must be considered an underdog. But he is following what I think is the right strategy: he is playing in the Twin Cities media and digital markets, but he is spending the bulk of his time in Greater Minnesota. He won’t win the cities and he may not carry the suburbs (although he needs to be competitive there), but if he runs up the score in the rural parts of the state–which I think are redder today than when they went heavily for President Trump in 2016–he may have a shot.

Jason Lewis is a solid conservative who is running, in effect, on Donald Trump’s ticket. He is eminently worthy of your support. You can donate to his campaign here.

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