Can Trump Win Minnesota?

Donald Trump came to Minnesota two weeks ago to headline the Minnesota Republican Party’s Lincoln Reagan Dinner. It was quite a coup for a state that has been mostly blue in recent years, but there is a reason why Trump took the time to come here: a May poll had him three points ahead of Joe Biden in Minnesota.

Is Trump really ahead here? The Democrats are not taking any chances:

[A]ccording to Gov. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), Democrats should not take Minnesota for granted.

“I think that Democrats are concerned just because the stakes are so high, but I think what I would tell those pundits and a lot of times if you’re really freaking out it’s because you’re not on the ground doing the work,” Walz told the Washington Post. “You’re not witnessing the 18 field offices opening up in Minnesota, the Biden-Harris campaign not taking Minnesota for granted. It’s going to be close out here. We’re not a given.”

Perhaps what most concerns Democrats is the polling trend–that, plus the fact that all of the numbers have been close. A February poll had Biden up by four; an April poll had him up by two; and in May, a third pollster found Trump ahead by three. So the trend may be worrying Democrats.

So, do I seriously think that Trump may carry Minnesota? No. Walz gives some reasons why:

“Just look at the fundamentals. … There’s not a Trump field office,” Walz said. “The Republican Party in Minnesota last time they filed their financial returns had $52 in the bank, and they haven’t won a statewide race here since 2006. But yeah, I think when you’re hearing that Minnesota, that we take it seriously, we do. My hope is the Trump campaign spends a lot of money here, which takes money away from North Carolina, which takes money from somewhere else.”

Trump surprised almost everyone in 2016 when he came within a point and a half of carrying Minnesota, when hardly anyone thought the state was in play. (I was sort of an exception.) But in 2020, he lost ground and the race was not close here. Trump is widely disliked in the Twin Cities suburbs, which here, as in many states, are the key swing districts. Having lost badly in 2020, why would anyone expect Trump to rebound in Minnesota in 2024?

The answer, I think, is that an out party doesn’t usually gain power because it has suddenly become more popular with voters. Rather, what generally happens is that voters are tired of the party in power, and decide to give the only alternative–the other guys–a shot. The precise identity and convictions of those “other guys” are not necessarily critical.

That is what I think is happening here. Minnesota voters haven’t suddenly decided that they were wrong about Trump in 2020. Rather, like voters almost everywhere, they have seen about as much of Joe Biden as they can stand. That makes them open to voting for the alternative, even if he is Donald Trump. Hence, I think, the close race that we see in the polls.

But no Republican has won a statewide race in Minnesota since 2006, as Tim Walz said, and I seriously don’t believe Trump is the man to break that streak. But I do think the fact that even in Minnesota, most voters are willing to take a hard look at the alternative to Joe Biden means that nationally, Biden’s campaign is in trouble.

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